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 - W

WADE, Benjamin Franklin, 1800-1878, lawyer, jurist, U.S. Senator, strong and active opponent of slavery.  In 1839, opposed enactment of stronger fugitive slave law, later calling for its repeal.  U.S. Senator, March 1851-1869.  Opposed Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854.  Reported bill to abolish slavery in U.S. Territories in 1862.  Voted for Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery. 

(Appletons’, 1888, pp. 310-311; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 303; Blue, 2005, pp. 11-13, 213-237; Filler, 1960, pp. 103, 151, 229; Mitchell, 2007, pp. 23, 25, 48-49, 54, 71, 116, 132, 143-144, 172, 189, 216, 217, 227, 228, 230; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 499; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 22, p. 431; Congressional Globe)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WADE, Benjamin Franklin, senator, b. in Feeding Hills, near Springfield, Mass., 27 Oct., 1800; d. in Jefferson, Ohio, 2 March, 1878. His ancestor, Jonathan, came from Norfolk, England, to Massachusetts in 1632. His father, James, a soldier of the Revolution, removed to Andover, Ohio, in 1821. The son's education was received chiefly from his mother. He shared in the pioneer work of his new home, and in 1823, after aiding in driving a herd of cattle to Philadelphia, went to Albany, N. Y., where he spent two years in teaching, also beginning the study of medicine with his brother, and at one time working as a common laborer on the Erie canal to obtain funds. On his return to Ohio he began the study of law, was admitted to the bar in 1827, and began practice in Jefferson. He formed a partnership with Joshua R. Giddings in 1831, and in 1835 was elected prosecuting attorney of Asht.abula county, which office he held till 1837. In that year he was chosen as a Whig to the state senate, where, as a member of the judiciary committee, he presented a report that put an end to the granting of divorces by the legislature. In 1839 he was active in opposition to the passage of a more stringent fugitive-slave law, which commissioners from Kentucky were urging on the legislature. The law passed, but his forcible speech against it did much to arouse state pride on the subject and to make it a dead letter. His action cost him his re-election to the senate, but he was chosen again in 1841. In February, 1847, he was elected by the legislature president-judge of the 3d judicial district, and while on the bench he was chosen, on 15 March, 1851, to the U. S. senate, where he remained till 1869. He soon became known as a leader of the small anti-slavery minority, advocated the homestead bill and the repeal of the fugitive-slave law, and opposed the Kansas-Nebraska bill of 1854, the admission of Kansas under the Lecompton constitution of 1858, and the purchase of Cuba. After the assault on Charles Sumner, Robert Toombs avowed in the senate that he had witnessed the attack, and approved it, whereupon Mr. Wade, in a speech of great vehemence, threw down the gage of personal combat to the southern senators. It was expected that there would be an immediate challenge from Toombs, but the latter soon made peace. Subsequently Mr. Wade, Zachariah Chandler, and Simon Cameron made a compact to resent any insult from a southerner by a challenge to fight. This agreement was made public many years afterward. Wade was present at the battle of Bull Run with other congressmen in a carriage, and it is related that after the defeat seven of them alighted, at Wade's proposal, being armed with revolvers, and for a quarter of an hour kept back the stream of fugitives near Fairfax Court-House. This incident, as narrated in the journals, made a sensation at the time. Mr. Wade labored earnestly for a vigorous prosecution of the war, was the chairman and foremost spirit of the joint committee on the conduct of the war in 1861-'2, and was active in urging the passage of a confiscation bill. As chairman of the committee on territories, he reported a bill in 1862 to abolish slavery in all the territories. He was instrumental in the advancement to the portfolio of war of Edwin M. Stanton, whom he recommended strongly to President Lincoln. Though he cordially supported the administration, he did not hesitate to criticise many of its acts, and after the adjournment of the 38th congress he issued, with Henry Winter Davis, what became known as the Wade-Davis manifesto, condemning the president's proposed reconstruction policy. Mr. Wade became president pro tempore of the senate, and thus acting vice-president of the United States, on 2 March, 1867, succeeding Lafayette S. Foster. He advised President Johnson to put on trial for treason a few of the Confederate leaders and pardon the rest, and was radical in his ideas of reconstruction. In the impeachment of President Johnson he voted for conviction. In 1869, at the close of his second term, he was succeeded in the senate by Allen G. Thurman, and he then returned to his home in Jefferson, Ohio. He was one of the chief members of the Santo Domingo commission in 1871, and then became attorney for the Northern Pacific railroad. He was chairman of the Ohio delegation in the Cincinnati national convention of 1876, and earnestly advocated the nomination of Rutherford B. Hayes, but after his accession to the presidency Mr. Wade bitterly condemned his course in relation to the southern states. Though Mr. Wade had been called “Frank Wade” in Ohio, from his middle name, he was known in congress and throughout the country as Ben or “Old Ben” Wade. He was popularly looked upon as one of the bulwarks of the National cause in the darkest hours of the civil war, and was widely admired and respected for his fearlessness, independence, and honesty. His rugged and forcible style of oratory always commanded attention. See his “Life,” by Albert G. Riddle (Cleveland, Ohio, 1888).—His son, JAMES FRANKLIN, entered the army on 14 May, 1861, as 1st lieutenant of the 6th U. S. cavalry, and rose in rank till at the close of the war he was major and brevet brigadier-general of volunteers. He became lieutenant-colonel on 20 March, 1879, and colonel of the 5th cavalry on 21 April, 1887. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 310-311.


WADE, Edward, Ohio, prominent abolitionist

(Blue, 2005, pp. 11-13, 213, 226, 236, 268; Dumond, 1961, pp. 302, 363; Mitchell, 2007, pp. 23, 25, 26, 48, 65, 71, 72; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 56)


WAGONER, Henry O., 1816-1901, African American, abolitionist, journalist, political leader.  Active in abolitionist newspaper, Western Citizen, and Frederick Douglass’s Frederick Douglass’ Paper, a weekly publication.  Active in Underground Railroad in Chicago area.  Helped enlist soldiers for the Black Union Army regiments.

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 11, p. 356)


WALKER, Amasa, 1799-1875, Boston, Massachusetts, political economist, abolitionist.  Republican U.S. Congressman from Massachusetts.  Active and vigorous opponent of slavery.  American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) Manager, 1837-1840, 1840-1841, 1843-1844, Counsellor, Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, 1840-1841.  Co-founder of Free Soil Party in 1848.  Served in Congress December 1862 through March 1863. 

(Filler, 1960, pp. 60, 254; Mabee, 1970, pp. 258, 340, 403n25; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 324-325; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 1, p. 338; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 22, p. 485)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WALKER, Amasa, political economist, b. in Woodstock, Conn., 4 May, 1799; d. in Brookfield, Mass., 29 Oct., 1875. He received a district-school education in North Brookfield, where among his fellow-students was William C. Bryant. In 1814 he entered commercial life, and in 1820 formed a partnership with Allen Newell in North Brookfield, but three years later withdrew to become the agent of the Methuen manufacturing company. In 1825 he formed with Charles G. Carleton the firm of Carleton and Walker, of Boston, Mass., but in 1827 he went into business independently. In 1840 he withdrew permanently from commercial affairs, and in 1842 he went to Oberlin, Ohio, on account of his great interest in the college there, and gave lectures on political economy at that institution until 1848. After serving in the legislature, he became the Free-soil and Democratic candidate for speaker, and in 1849 was chosen to the Massachusetts senate, where he introduced a plan for a sealed-ballot law, which was enacted in 1851, and carried a bill providing that Webster's Dictionary should be introduced into the common schools of Massachusetts. He was elected secretary of state in 1851, re-elected in 1852, and in 1853 was chosen a member of the convention for revising the state constitution, becoming the chairman of the committee on suffrage. He was appointed in 1853 one of the examiners in political economy in Harvard, and held that office until 1860, and in 1859 he began an annual course of lectures on that subject in Amherst, which he continued until 1869. Meanwhile, in 1859, he was again elected to the Massachusetts legislature, and in 1860 he was chosen a member of the electoral college of that state, casting his ballot for Abraham Lincoln. He was also elected as a Republican to congress, and served from 1 Dec., 1862, till 3 March, 1863. Mr. Walker is best known for his work in avocating new and reformatory measures. In 1839 he urged a continuous all-rail route of communication between Boston and Mississippi river, and during the same year he became president of the Boston temperance society, the first total abstinence association in that city. He was active in the anti-slavery movement, though not to the extent of recommending unconstitutional methods for its abolition, and in 1848 he was one of the founders of the Free-soil party. Mr. Walker was a member of the first International peace congress in London in 1843, and was one of its vice-presidents, and in 1849 he held the same office in the congress in Paris. The degree of LL. D. was conferred on him by Amherst in 1867. In 1857 he began the publication of a series of articles on political economy in “Hunt's Merchant's Magazine,” and he was accepted as an authority on questions of finance. Besides other contributions to magazines, he published “Nature and Uses of Money and Mixed Currency” (Boston, 1857), and “Science of Wealth, a Manual of Political Economy” (1866), of which eight editions have been sold, and it has been translated into Italian. With William B. Calhoun and Charles L. Flint he issued “Transactions of the Agricultural Societies of Massachuetts” (7 vols., 1848-'54). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 324-325.


WALKER, David, 1796?-1830, born Wilmington, North Carolina, free African American, author, abolitionist.  Wrote Walker’s Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World.  Mother was free; father was a slave.  Founder of the Massachusetts General Colored Association, which opposed colonization.  Walker was a subscription agent for the newspaper, Freedom’s Journal.

(Aptheker, 1965; Burrow, 2003; Drake, 1950, p. 131; Dumond, 1961, pp. 114-115; Hammond, 2011, pp. 96, 177; Hinks, 1997; Mabee, 1970, pp. 258, 340, 403n25; Pease, 1965, pp. 298-310; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 25, 39, 172, 463, 501-502, 581-585, 588; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 1, p. 340; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 22, p. 487; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 11, p. 378; Hinks, Peter P., & John R. McKivigan, Eds., Encyclopedia of Antislavery and Abolition.  Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood, 2007, Vol. 2, pp. 735-737)


WALKER, Edwin G., 1831?-1901, African American, lawyer, politician, abolitionist.  Participated in Boston’s abolition groups.

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 11, p. 380)


WALKER, Jonathan, Captain, 1799-1878, abolitionist, reformer.  Attempted to aid escape of slaves from Pensacola, Florida.  Was caught, tried and convicted, and branded on hand with “SS” for “slave stealer.”  His story revealed evil of slave trade and slave laws.  (Filler, 1960, p. 164; Mabee, 1970, pp. 266, 268, 269, 298; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 328; Wilson, 1872, Vol. 2, pp. 82-83)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WALKER, Jonathan, reformer, b. on Cape Cod, Mass., in 1799; d. near Muskegon, Mich., 1 May, 1878. He was captain of a fishing vessel, in his youth, but about 1840 he went to Florida, where he became a railroad-contractor. He was interested in the condition of the slaves, and in 1844 aided several of them in an attempt to make their escape in an open boat from the coast of Florida to the British West Indies. After doubling the capes, he was prostrated by illness, and the crew being ignorant of navigation, they would all have been drowned had they not been rescued by a wreckingsloop that took Walker to Key West, whence he was sent in irons to Pensacola. On his arrival there he was put in prison, chained to the floor, and deprived of light and proper food. Upon his trial in a U. S. court, he was convicted, sentenced to be heavily fined, put on the pillory, and branded on his right hand with a hot iron with the letters “S. S.,” for “slave-stealer,” a U. S. marshal executing the sentence. He was then remanded to jail, where he was confined eleven months, and released only after the payment of his fine by northern Abolitionists. For the subsequent five years he lectured on slavery in the northern and western states. He removed to Michigan about 1850, where he resided near Muskegon until his death. A monument was erected to his memory on 1 Aug., 1878. He was the subject of John G. Whittier's poem “The Man with the Branded Hand.” See “Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America,” by Henry Wilson (Boston, 1874). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 328.

Chapter: “Underground Railroad. - Operations at the East and in the Middle States,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

About the year 1840, Captain Jonathan Walker, of Massachusetts, took a contract to build a portion of a projected railroad in Florida. In fulfilling that contract, he employed several negroes.  Being a Christian man, he so far carried his religion into his daily life, as to treat his workmen as human beings, permitting them to sit at the same table with himself, and to bend the knee around the same family altar. The natural result followed. Kindness begat kindness, and they loved him and trusted in him. Accordingly, in 1844, they persuaded him to enter upon the every-way hazardous venture of aiding them in an attempt, in an open boat, to escape from the land of chains to a neighboring island, belonging to the British crown. After doubling the capes of Florida, he was prostrated by violent sickness. He helpless, and the fugitives ignorant of navigation, they were at the mercy of the winds and waves. Found by the crew of a wrecking-sloop, he was taken into Key West, where he was thrown into prison, and kept in irons until he was despatched to Pensacola. During the passage he was compelled, like a criminal of the vilest sort, to lie on the bottom of the steamer in chains. Arriving in Pensacola, he was cast into a cell in which, two days previously, a man had committed suicide, the floor still saturated with blood. There, chained to the floor, he was allowed neither bed, chair, nor table. He was tried in a United States court, convicted, and sentenced to be branded on the right hand with the capitals “S. S.''; to stand in the pillory one hour; to pay as many fines as there were slaves "stolen"; to suffer as many terms' imprisonment; to pay the costs, and to stand committed until the fines were paid. The execution of these sentences was at once entered upon. A United State marshal branded his hand with the initials of the words "slave stealer,” he was compelled to stand in the pillory, was pelted with rotten eggs by a renegade Northerner, and remanded to prison, where he lay for eleven months, with a heavy chain on his leg, which the jailer would not remove, even for the purpose of changing his clothing. By efforts of friends, in which Loring Moody took a leading part, a sufficient sum was raised to liquidate his fines, and in the summer of 1845 he was set at liberty. The most impressive lessons of that strange and revolting incident lie in the sharp and broad contrast between the personal bravery and moral grandeur of the man and the craven cowardice and heartless ignominy of the nation; and in the profound mistake they made who supposed that they could thus fix a stigma upon such a person, or tarnish his good name, and that the disgrace was not all their own, and all the honor his. For there were many, even in those days of darkness, who saw, with Whittier, that that brand was "highest honor;" and who welcomed the "brave seaman" back to his New England home as the chivalrous possessor of the old "heroic spirit of an earlier, better day." Like him, too, they said in thought, if not in his own ringing words: 

“Then lift that manly right hand, bold ploughman of the wave,

Its branded palm shall prophesy "SALVATION TO THE SLAVE'':

Hold, up its fire-wrought language, that whoso reads may feel

His heart swell strong within him, his sinews change to steel.

"Hold it up before our sunshine, up against our Northern air.

Ho! men of Massachusetts, for the love of God, look there!

Take it henceforth for your standard like the Bruce's heart of yore;

In the dark strife closing round ye, let that hand be seen before."

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 82-84.


WALKER, Robert John, 1801-1869, Northumberland, Pennsylvania, statesman, lawyer, United States Senator.  Sustained treaty for suppressing the African slave trade.  Advocate for gradual emancipation and colonization of slaves.  Freed his own slaves.  During Civil War, supported emancipation as a necessity for Union victory.  Strong supporter of the Union. 

(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 329; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 1, p. 355)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WALKER, Robert John, statesman, b. at Northumberland, Pa., 23 July, 1801; d. in Washington, D. C., 11 Nov., 1869. His father was a soldier of the Revolution, and a judge of the common pleas, of the high court of errors and appeals of Pennsylvania, and of the U. S. district court. After his graduation in August, 1819, at the state university at Philadelphia, with the first honor of a large class, he began the practice of law at Pittsburg, Pa., in 1822, with great success. In 1826 he removed to Mississippi, where he entered vigoronsly into law and politics, taking an active part in 1832 and 1833 against nullification and secession. In January, 1833, in the Natchez “Journal,” he made an extended argument against the doctrine of disunion and in favor of coercion against rebellious states, which was highly extolled by James Madison. In January, 1836, he was Union candidate for the U.S. senate in opposition to George Poindexter, and was elected, and at this time he influenced the legislature of Mississippi to adopt resolutions denouncing nullification and secession as treason. In 1840 he was re-elected to the U. S. senate by a two-to-one majority over t.he orator Sergeant S. Prentiss. During his service in the senate he took an active part in its debates, especially in opposition to John C. Calhoun. He supported the administrations of Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren; but when the latter disapproved of the annexation of Texas, Walker opposed him, and in the Baltimore convention of 1844 labored for the nomination of James K. Polk to the presidency. By Mr. Polk he was appointed secretary of the treasury, which office he held till 5 March, 1849. In his course in the senate Mr. Walker opposed the Bank of the United States and the distribution of the surplus revenue among the states, advocating, instead, its application to the public defences. He opposed a protective tariff, and in a speech on 3 March, 1836, proposed the celebrated Homestead bill. He sustained with much energy the treaty for suppressing the African slave-trade, and throughout his political career always and consistently advocated gradual emancipation, exhibiting his sincerity in 1838 by manumitting all his own slaves. He sustained New York in the McLeod case, and introduced and carried the resolution of 1837 recognizing the in dependence of Texas. He was the first to propose the annexation of Texas by a letter in the public prints in January, 1844, recommending, as a condition, a scheme for gradual emancipation and colonization, which was fiercely attacked by John C. Calhoun. While secretary of the treasury he prepared and carried the tariff of 1846, various loan bills, the warehousing system, the Mexican tariff, and the bill to organize the department of the interior. After leaving the treasury, he was offered by President Pierce in 1853 the post of commissioner to China, which he declined. The part that he took in the events that immediately preceded the civil war was active. He opposed the repeal of the Missouri compromise, though after it became a law he supported it on the ground that was assumed by Stephen A. Douglas. In 1857 he accepted the post of governor of Kansas on the pledge of President Buchanan that the state constitution should be submitted to the vote of the people; but after rejecting the forged and fraudulent returns in Kansas, and opposing the Lecompton constitution, Mr. Walker resigned, and, going before congress, defeated the attempt to force the corrupt measure on the territory. After Abraham Lincoln's election Mr. Walker took ground, earnestly and immediately, in favor of re-enforcing the southern forts and of sustaining the Union by force if necessary. In April, 1861, he addressed a great meeting in Union square, New York, advocating prompt and vigorous measures, and he did this when many of the best men of both parties deprecated a resort to extremities. His decided course had great influence in shaping the policy of the government. Early in 1863 he joined James R. Gilmore in the conduct of the “Continental Monthly,” which the latter had established the year before to advocate emancipation as a political necessity, and he wrote for it some of its ablest political articles. In the same year he was appointed by the government financial agent of the United States in Europe, and succeeded in negotiating $250,000,000 of the 5-20 bonds. Returning to the United States in November, 1864, he devoted himself thereafter to a large law-practice in Washington, and to writing for the “Continental Monthly” articles on financial and political topics, in which he was understood to present the views of the state and treasury departments. During this period he was influential in procuring the ratification of the Alaska treaty and in securing the passage of the bill for a railroad to the Pacific. During his public life of nearly forty years Mr. Walker exercised a strong and often controlling influence on affairs. He had a broad and comprehensive mind, and a patriotism that embraced the whole country. As a financier he takes high rank.   Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI.


WALN, Robert, 1765-1836, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Quaker, businessman, economist.  Member of the U.S. Congress from Pennsylvania.  Served in Congress 1798-1801 in Federalist Party.  Opposed slavery and the Futugive Slave Act in U.S. House of Representatives. 

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 339; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 1, p. 387; Locke, 1901, p. 93; Annals of Congress)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WALN, Robert, merchant, b. in Philadelphia, Pa., 22 Feb., 1765; d. there, 24 Jan., 1836. His great-great-grandfather, Nicholas, an English Quaker, came to this country with William Penn in 1682, and bought a tract of land in what is now the city of Philadelphia. He took an active part in public affairs, was a member of the first grand jury that was called in 1683, and represented Bucks county in the first legislature of Pennsylvania from that year till 1695, when he removed to Philadelphia, and in 1711 became a director in the first public school of that city. He died there in 1721. Robert was educated at the Friends' academy in his native city. Be inherited a large estate, and with his brother Jesse continued the business that had been established by his father, which became widely known in the East India and China trade, and almost equalled that of Stephen Girard in the comprehensive character of its enterprises. He served in the legislature several years, and in congress from 1798 till 1801 as a Federalist, and was a member of the common council of Philadelphia. During the war of 1812 he built one of the first cotton-factories in the country, and, being also largely interested in iron-works, he became a strong protectionist. He was the author of an “Answer to the Anti-Protective Report of Henry Lee,” while the excitement on the tariff question was at its height, and of “Seven Letters to Elias Hicks,” which attracted great attention. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 339.  


WANER, Joseph, Delaware, abolitionist, member and delegate of the Delaware Society for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, founded 1789. 

(Basker, 2005, pp. 224, 225, 238, 241n20)


WARD, Samuel Ringgold, 1817-1866, New York, American Missionary Association (AMA), African American, abolitionist leader, newspaper editor, author, orator, clergyman.  Member of the Liberty Party and the Free Soil Party.  Wrote Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro, His Anti-Slavery Labours in the United States, Canada and England, 1855.  Lecturer for American Anti-Slavery Society.  Member and contributor to the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada.

(Dumond, 1961, p. 330; Mabee, 1970, pp. 128, 135, 136, 294, 307, 400n19; Sernett, 2002, pp. 54-55, 62-64, 94, 117, 121, 126, 142, 149, 157-159, 169, 171-172; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 34, 46, 48, 53, 166, 446-447, 454; Sorin, 1971, pp. 85-89, 96, 104, 132; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 1, p. 440; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 22, p. 649; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 11, p. 380)


WARE, John Fothergill Waterhouse, 1818-1881, Boston, Massachusetts, Unitarian clergyman, helped African Americans and opposed slavery.  Founded schools for African American students in Boston.

(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 357; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 1, p. 450)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WARE, John Fothergill Waterhouse, clergyman, b. in Boston, 31 Aug., 1818; d. in Milton, Mass., 26 Feb., 1881, was graduated at Harvard in 1838 and at the divinity-school in 1842. He was first settled as a pastor of the Unitarian society at Fall River, Mass., afterward was stationed at Cambridgeport, and in 1864 became pastor of the Unitarian church in Baltimore, Md. During his residence in Baltimore he gave much attention to the religious needs and other wants of the negroes, and before and during the civil war was an anti-slavery man. Mr. Ware returned to Boston, and in 1872 became pastor of the Arlington street church. He organized a Unitarian society at Swampscott, Mass., of which he was pastor at the time of his death, as well as of the Boston church. He was a favorite with the members of the Grand army of the republic, having been a worker among the soldiers during the civil war, and was a frequent orator before their organizations. He published “The Silent Pastor” (Boston, 1848); “Hymns and Tunes for Sunday-School Worship” (1858-'56-'60); and “Home Life: What it Is, and what it Needs” (1873).  Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888.


WASHINGTON, Augustus, 1820-1875, African American, abolitionist, newspaper publisher, Liberian statesman, Black civil rights activist, educator.  Rejected, then later supported African colonization.  Emigrated to Liberia.  Elected to Liberian House of Representatives in 1863 and later became Speaker.  In 1871, elected to Liberian Senate.

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 11, p. 458)


WATTLES, Augustus, 1807-1883, established school for free Blacks.  Agent of the American Anti-Slavery Society.  Worked with Emigrant Aid Society in Lawrence, Kansas.  Edited Herald of Freedom

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 164-165; Mabee, 1970, pp. 104, 155, 394n31, 403n29)


WAY, Henry H., Indiana, Society of Friends, Quaker, abolitionist, editor of the Free Labor Advocate newspaper of the Friends Anti-Slavery Society

(Drake, 1950, p. 165)


WEBSTER, Daniel, 1782-1852, Boston, Massachusetts, statesman, U.S. Secretary of State, U.S. Congressman, lawyer, orator, author, strong opponent of slavery.  Vice President of the American Colonization Society, 1833-1841.  President of the Society for the Suppression of the Slave Trade in 1822.

(Baxter, 1984; Blue, 2005; Mabee, 1970, pp. 175, 197, 261, 291, 307; Mitchell, 2007; Peterson, 1987; Remini, 1997; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 331-332, 508-509; Shewmaker, 1990; Smith, 1989; Webster, 1969; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 406-415; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 1, p. 585; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 22, p. 865; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, pp. 27, 76, 245)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WEBSTER, Daniel, statesman, b. in Salisbury (now Franklin), N.H., 18 Jan., 1782; d. in Marshfield, Mass., 24 Oct., 1852, was the second son of Ebenezer Webster by his second wife, Abigail Eastman. […]

[… In] 1845, Mr. Webster was re-elected to the senate. The two principal questions of Mr. Polk's administration related to the partition of Oregon and the difficulties that led to war with Mexico. The Democrats declared that we must have the whole of Oregon up to the parallel of 54° 40', although the 49th parallel had already been suggested as a compromise-line. In a very able speech at Faneuil hall, Mr. Webster advocated the adoption of this compromise. The speech was widely read in England and on the continent of Europe, and Mr. Webster followed it by a private letter to Mr. Macgregor, of Glasgow, expressing a wish that the British government might see fit to offer the 49th parallel as a boundary-line. The letter was shown to Lord Aberdeen, who adopted the suggestion, and the dispute accordingly ended in the partition of Oregon between the United States and Great Britain. This successful interposition disgusted some Democrats who were really desirous of war with England, and Charles J. Ingersoll, member of congress from Pennsylvania and chairman of the committee on foreign affairs, made a scandalous attack upon Mr. Webster, charging him with a corrupt use of public funds. Mr. Webster replied in his great speech of 6 and 7 April, 1846, in defence of the Ashburton treaty. The speech was a triumphant vindication of his public policy, and in the thorough investigation of details that followed, Mr. Ingersoll's charges were shown to be utterly groundless.

During the operations on the Texas frontier, which brought on war with Mexico, Mr. Webster was absent from Washington. In the summer of 1847 he travelled through the southern states, and was everywhere received with much enthusiasm. He opposed the prosecution of the war for the sake of acquiring more territory, because he foresaw that such a policy must speedily lead to a dangerous agitation of the slavery question. The war brought Gen. Zachary Taylor into the foreground as a candidate for the presidency, and some of the Whig managers actually proposed to nominate Mr. Webster as vice-president on the same ticket with Gen. Taylor. He indignantly refused to accept such a proposal; but Mr. Clay's defeat in 1844 had made many Whigs afraid to take him again as a candidate. Mr. Webster was thought to be altogether too independent, and there was a feeling that Gen. Taylor was the most available candidate and the only one who could supplant Mr. Clay. These circumstances led to Taylor's nomination, which Mr. Webster at first declined to support. He disapproved of soldiers as presidents, and characterized the nomination as “one not fit to be made.” At the same time he was far from ready to support Mr. Van Buren and the Free-soil party, yet in his situation some decided action was necessary. Accordingly, in his speech at Marshfield, 1 Sept., 1848, he declared that, as the choice was really between Gen. Taylor and Gen. Cass, he should support the former. It has been contended that in this Mr. Webster made a great mistake, and that his true place in this canvass would have been with the Free-soil party. He had always been opposed to the further extension of slavery; but it is to be borne in mind that he looked with dread upon the rise of an anti-slavery party that should be supported only in the northern states. Whatever tended to array the north and the south in opposition to each other Mr. Webster wished especially to avoid. The ruling purpose of his life was to do what he could to prevent the outbreak of a conflict that might end in the disruption of the Union; and it may well have seemed that there was more safety in sustaining the Whig party in electing its candidate by the aid of southern votes than in helping into life a new party that should be purely sectional. At the same time, this cautious policy necessarily involved an amount of concession to southern demands far greater than the rapidly growing anti- slavery sentiment in the northern states would tolerate. No doubt Mr. Webster's policy in 1848 pointed logically toward his last great speech, 7 March, 1850, in which he supported Mr. Clay's elaborate compromises for disposing of the difficulties that had grown out of the vast extension of territory consequent upon the Mexican war. (See CLAY, HENRY.) This speech aroused intense indignation at the north, and especially in Massachusetts. It was regarded by many people as a deliberate sacrifice of principle to policy. Mr. Webster was accused of truckling to the south in order to obtain southern support for the presidency. Such an accusation seems inconsistent with Mr. Webster's character, and a comprehensive survey of his political career renders it highly improbable. The “Seventh-of-March.” speech may have been a political mistake; but one cannot read it to-day, with a clear recollection of what was thought and felt before the civil war, and doubt for a moment the speaker's absolute frankness and sincerity. He supported Mr. Clay's compromises because they seemed to him a conclusive settlement of the slavery question. The whole territory of the United States, as he said, was now covered with compromises, and the future destiny of every part, so far as the legal introduction of slavery was concerned, seemed to be decided. As for the regions to the west of Texas, he believed that slavery was ruled out by natural conditions of soil and climate, so that it was not necessary to protect them by a Wilmot proviso. As for the fugitive-slave law, it was simply a provision for carrying into effect a clause of the constitution, without which that instrument could never have been adopted, and in the frequent infraction of which Mr. Webster saw a serious danger to the continuance of the Union. He therefore accepted the fugitive-slave law as one feature in the proposed system of compromises; but, in accepting it, he offered amendments, which, if they had been adopted, would have gone far toward depriving it of some of its most obnoxious and irritating features. By adopting these measures of compromise, Mr. Webster believed that the extension of slavery would have been given its limit, that the north would, by reason of its free labor, increase in preponderance over the south, and that by and by the institution of slavery, hemmed in and denied further expansion, would die a natural death. That these views were mistaken, the events of the next ten years showed only too plainly, but there is no good reason for doubting their sincerity. There is little doubt, too, that the compromises had their practical value in postponing the inevitable conflict for ten years, during which the relative strength of the north was increasing and a younger generation was growing up less tolerant of slavery and more ready to discard palliatives and achieve a radical cure. So far as Mr. Webster's moral attitude was concerned, although he was not prepared for the bitter hostility that his speech provoked in many quarters, he must nevertheless have known that it was quite as likely to injure him at the north as to gain support for him in the south, and his resolute adoption of a policy that he regarded as national rather than sectional was really an instance of high moral courage. It was, however, a concession that did violence to his sentiments of humanity, and the pain and uneasiness it occasioned is visible in some of his latest utterances.

On President Taylor's death, 9 July, 1850, Mr. Webster became President Fillmore's secretary of state. An earnest attempt was made on the part of his friends to secure his nomination for the presidency in 1852; but on the first ballot in the convention he received only 29 votes, while there were 131 for Gen. Scott and 133 for Mr. Fillmore. The efforts of Mr. Webster's adherents succeeded only in giving the nomination to Scott. The result was a grave disappointment to Mr. Webster. He refused to support the nomination, and took no part in the campaign. His health was now rapidly failing. He left Washington, 8 Sept., for the last time, and returned to Marshfield, which he never left again, except on 20 Sept. for a brief call upon his physician in Boston. By his own request there were no public ceremonies at his funeral, which took place very quietly, 29 Sept., at Marshfield. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 406-415.


WEED, Edward, abolitionist, agent of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), Ohio Area. 

(Dumond, 1961, p. 185; Filler, 1960, p. 146; Mitchell, 2007, pp. 80, 86, 88, 104, 106, 116, 129, 143, 146, 154, 168, 174, 206, 227, 228, 229; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 513)


WEEKS, William Raymond, 1783-1848, Newark, New Jersey, clergyman, abolitionist, American Anti-Slavery Society, Vice-President, 1834-39. 

(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 420)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WEEKS, William Raymond, clergyman, b. in Brooklyn, Conn., 6 Aug., 1783; d. in Oneida, N.Y., 27 June, 1848. He was graduated at Princeton in 1809, studied at Andover theological seminary, and was pastor of Presbyterian churches in New York state from 1812 till 1832, when he accepted a charge in Newark, N. J., which he held till 1846. Williams gave him the degree of D. D. in 1828. He is the author of “Nine Sermons” (1813), a series of tracts (1834-'41), and a posthumous volume entitled “Pilgrim's Progress in the Nineteenth Century” (1849). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI. pp. 420.


WEISS, John, 1818-1879, Boston, Massachusetts, author, clergyman, abolitionist, women’s rights activist. 

(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 422; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 1, p. 615)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WEISS, John, author, b. in Boston, Mass., 28 June, 1818; d. there, 9 March, 1879. His father, a German Jew, was a barber in Worcester, Mass. John was graduated at Harvard in 1837, and at the divinity-school in 1843, meanwhile studying abroad. He then was settled over the Unitarian church in Watertown, Mass., but withdrew on account of his anti-slavery opinions, and was pastor at New Bedford a short time, resigning on account of the failure of his health. After several years of study and travel he resumed his pastorate in Watertown, and preached there in 1859-'70. Mr. Weiss was an ardent Abolitionist, an advocate of women's rights, a rationalist in religion, and a disciple of the transcendental philosophy. He delivered courses of lectures on “Greek Religious Ideas.” “Humor in Shakespeare,” and “Shakespeare's Women.” Of his lectures on Greek religious ideas, Octavius B. Frothingham says: “They were the keenest interpretation of the ancient myths, the most profound, luminous, and sympathetic, I have met with.” He is the author of many reviews, sermons, and magazine articles on literary, biographical, social, and political questions, “Life and Correspondence of Theodore Parker” (2 vols., New York, 1864), and “American Religion” (1871). He also edited and translated “Henry of Afterdingen,” a romance by Friedrich Van Hardenberg (Boston, 1842); “Philosophical and Æsthetic Letters and Essays of Schiller,” with an introduction (1845); and “Memoir of Johann G. Fichte,” by William Smith (1846). Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1888.


WELD, Angelina Grimké, 1805-1879, reformer, author, wife of Theodore Weld 

(Barnes, 1933; Drake, 1950, p. 158; Thomas, 1950; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 425; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WELD, Angelina Emily Grimké, reformer, b. in Charleston, S. C., 20 Feb., 1805, is the daughter of Judge John F. Grimké, of South Carolina, but in 1828, with her sister, Sarah M. Grimké (q. v.), she joined the Society of Friends in Philadelphia, afterward emancipating the slaves that she inherited from her parents in 1836. She was the author of an “Appeal to the Christian Women of the South,” which was republished in England with an introduction by George Thompson, and was associated with her sister in delivering public addresses under the auspices of the American anti-slavery society, winning a reputation for eloquence. The controversy that the appearance of the sisters as public speakers caused was the beginning of the woman's rights agitation in this country. She married Mr. Weld on 14 May, 1838, and was afterward associated with him in educational and reformatory work. Besides the work noticed above, she wrote “Letters to Catherine E. Beecher,” a review of the slavery question (Boston, 1837). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI. pp. 425.


WELD, Theodore Dwight, 1803-1895, Cincinnati, Ohio, New York, NY, reformer, abolitionist leader, anti-slavery lobbyist.  Co-founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) in December 1833.  Manager, 1833-1835, and Corresponding Secretary, 1839-1840, of the Society.  Published American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses (1839).  Also wrote The Bible Against Slavery (1839) and Slavery and the Internal Slave Trace in the United States (London, 1841).  Married to abolitionist Angelina Grimké. 

(Barnes, 1933; Drake, 1950, pp. 138, 140, 158, 173; Dumond, 1961, pp. 161, 176, 180, 183, 185, 220, 240-241; Filler, 1960, pp. 32, 56, 67, 72, 102, 148, 156, 164, 172, 176, 206; Hammond, 2011, pp. 268, 273; Mabee, 1970, pp. 17, 33, 34, 38, 92, 93, 104, 146, 151, 152, 153, 187, 188, 191, 196, 348, 358; Pease, 1965, pp. 94-102; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 42, 46, 106, 321-323, 419, 486, 510-512; Sorin, 1971, pp. 42-43, 53, 60, 64, 67, 70n; Thomas, 1950; Abolitionist, Vol. I, No. XII, December, 1833; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 425; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 1, p. 625; American Reformers: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary, New York, 1985, pp. 681-682; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 22, p. 928; The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. II. New York: James T. White, 1892, p. 318; Hinks, Peter P., & John R. McKivigan, Eds., Encyclopedia of Antislavery and Abolition.  Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood, 2007, Vol. 2, pp. 740-741; Abzug, Robert H. Passionare Liberator: Theodore Dwight Weld and the Dilemma of Reform, New York, 1980; Dumond, Dwight L., ed., Letters of Theodore Dwight Weld, Angelina Grimké Weld and Sarah Grimké, 1822-144, 1965)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WELD, Theodore Dwight, reformer, b. in Hampton, Conn., 23 Nov., 1803. He entered Phillips Andover academy in 1819, but was not graduated, on account of failing eyesight. In 1830 he became general agent of the Society for the promotion of manual labor in literary institutions, publishing afterward a valuable report (New York, 1833). He entered Lane theological seminary, Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1833, but left that institution on the suppression of the Anti-slavery society of the seminary by the trustees. Mr. Weld then became well known as an anti-slavery lecturer, but in 1836 he lost his voice, and was appointed by the American anti-slavery society editor of its books and pamphlets. In 1841-'3 he labored in Washington in aid of the anti-slavery members of congress, and in 1854 he established at Eagleswood, N. J., a school in which he received pupils irrespective of sex and color. In 1864 he removed to Hyde Park, near Boston, and devoted himself to teaching and lecturing. Mr. Weld is the author of many pamphlets, and of “The Power of Congress over the District of Columbia” (New York, 1837); “The Bible against Slavery” (1837); “American Slavery as it Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses” (1839); and “Slavery and the Internal Slave Trade in the United States” (London, 1841). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI. pp. 425.


WELLES, Gideon, 1802-1878, newspaper editor.  Secretary of the Navy, Lincoln’s cabinet.  Opposed the extension of slavery.  Left Democratic Party over its stand on slavery and helped organize the Republican Party.  Poosed the Kansas-Nebraska Bill.  Helped start the pro-Republican Hartford Evening Press.  Allowed African American refugees to join the U.S. Navy.  Secretary of the Navy 1861-1869. 

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 427; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 1, p. 629; Welles’ diaries, manuscripts, Library of Congress)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WELLES, Gideon, secretary of the navy, b. in Glastonbury, Conn., 1 July, 1802; d. in Hartford, Conn., 11 Feb., 1878, entered Norwich university, Vt., but, without being graduated, began to study law. In 1826 he became editor and part owner of the Hartford “Times” with which he remained connected till 1854, though he retired from the responsible editorship in 1836. He made his paper the chief organ of the Democratic party in the state. It was the first to advocate the election of Andrew Jackson to the presidency, and earnestly upheld his administration. Mr. Welles was a member of the legislature in 1827-‘35, and both in that body and in his journal attacked with severity the proposed measure to exclude from the courts witnesses that did not believe in a future state of rewards and punishments. He also labored for years to secure the abolition of imprisonment for debt, opposed special and private legislation, and secured the passage of general laws for the organization of financial corporations. He began an agitation for low postage before the subject had begun to attract general attention. He was chosen comptroller of the state by the legislature in 1835, and elected to that office by popular vote in 1842 and 1843, serving as postmaster of Hartford in the intervening years. From 1846 till 1849 he was chief of the bureau of provisions and clothing in the navy department at Washington. Mr. Welles had always opposed the extension of slavery. He identified himself with the newly formed Republican party in 1855, and in 1856 was its candidate for governor of Connecticut. In 1860 he labored earnestly for the election of Abraham Lincoln, and on the latter's election Mr. Welles was given the portfolio of the navy in his cabinet. Here his executive ability compensated for his previous lack of special knowledge, and though many of his acts were bitterly criticised, his administration was popular with the navy and with the country at large. His facility as a writer made, his state papers more interesting than such documents usually are. In his first report, dated 4 July, 1861, he announced the increase of the effective naval force from forty-two to eighty-two vessels. This and the subsequent increase in a few months to more than 500 vessels was largely due to his energy. In the report that has just been mentioned he also recommended investigations to secure the best iron-clads, and this class of vessels was introduced under his administration. In the cabinet Mr. Welles opposed all arbitrary measures, and objected to the declaration of a blockade of southern ports, holding that this was a virtual acknowledgment of belligerent rights, and that the preferable course would be to close our ports to foreign commerce by proclamation. By request of the president, he presented his ideas in writing; but the cabinet finally yielded to the views of Sec. Seward. Early in the war, on 25 Sept., 1861, he ordered that the negro refugees that found their way to U. S. vessels should be enlisted in the navy. He held his post till the close of President Johnson's administration in 1869. In 1872 he acted with the Liberal Republicans, and in 1876 he advocated the election of Samuel J. Tilden, afterward taking strong grounds against the electoral commission and its decision. After his retirement from office he contributed freely to current literature on the political and other events of the civil war, and provoked hostile criticism by what many thought his harsh strictures on official conduct. In 1872 he published an elaborate paper to show that the capture of New Orleans in 1862 was due entirely to the navy, and in 1873 a volume entitled “Lincoln and Seward.” Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI. pp. 427.


WENTWORTH, John, 1815-1888, New Hampshire, lawyer, editor, newspaper publisher.  U.S. congressman, 1843-1851, 1853-1855, 1865-1867.  Mayor of Chicago, Illinois, elected in 1857 and 1860.  Anti-slavery advocate.  Early co-founder of an anti-slavery political party that became the Republican Party. 

(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 436; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 1, p. 657)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WENTWORTH, John, journalist, b. in Sandwich, N. H., 5 March, 1815; d. in Chicago, Ill., 16 Oct., 1888, was a son of Paul Wentworth, and the grandson on his mother's side of Col. Amos Cogswell, a Revolutionary officer. After graduation at Dartmouth in 1836, he settled in Illinois in 1836, attended the first meeting to consider the propriety of organizing the town of Chicago into a city, did much to procure its charter, and voted at its first city election in May, 1837. He studied law at Chicago, attended lectures at Harvard law-school, and was admitted to practice in Illinois in 1841. While studying law he conducted the Chicago “Democrat,” which he soon purchased and made the chief daily paper of the northwest and of which he was publisher, editor, and proprietor until 1861. Being elected to congress as a Democrat, he served from 4 Dec., 1843, till 3 March, 1851, and again from 5 Dec., 1853, till 3 March, 1855. He introduced in that body the first bill favoring the establishment of the present national warehouse system, was instrumental in securing the grant of land to the state of Illinois out of which was constructed the present Illinois Central railroad. He was one of the Democrats and Whigs in congress that assembled at Crutchet's, at Washington, the morning after the repeal of the Missouri compromise passed the house, and resolved to ignore all party lines and form an anti-slavery party. Out of this grew the present Republican party, with which he afterward acted. He was elected mayor of Chicago in 1857 and again in 1860, and was the first Republican mayor elected in the United States after the formation of the party, and issued the first proclamation after Fort Sumter was fired upon, calling on his fellow-citizens to organize and send soldiers to the war. He introduced the first steam fire-engine, “Long John,” in Chicago in 1857, and later two others, the “Liberty” and “Economy.” Upon each occasion of his assumption of the mayor's office he found a large floating debt, and left money in the treasury for his successor. In 1861 he was a member of the convention to revise the constitution of Illinois, and he was a member of the board of education in 1861-'4 and in 1868-'72. He served again in congress from 4 Dec., 1865, till 3 March, 1867, was a member of the committee of ways and means, and was an earnest advocate of the immediate resumption of specie payments. Mr. Wentworth had been a member of the Illinois state board of agriculture, and was the largest real estate owner in Cook county. He received the degree of LL. D. from Dartmouth, to which college he gave $10,000, and was elected president of its alumni in 1883. Owing to his extreme height he was called “Long John” Wentworth. In addition to lectures and writings upon the early history of Chicago, and historical contributions to periodicals, he was the author of “Genealogical, Bibliographical, and Biographical Account of the Descendants of Elder William Wentworth” (Boston, 1850), and “History of the Wentworth Family” (3 vols., 1878).  Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888.


THE WEST (1819-1829)

THE history of the United States is the history of a growing nation. Every period of its life is a transitional period, but that from the close of the War of 1812 to the election of Andrew Jackson was peculiarly one of readjustment. It was during this time that the new republic gave clear evidence that it was throwing off the last remnants of colonial dependence. The Revolution had not fully severed the United States from the European state system; but now the United States attained complete independence and asserted its predominance in the western continent. It was in this period that the nation strengthened its hold on the Gulf of Mexico by the acquisition of Florida, recognized the independence of the revolting Spanish-American colonies, and took the leadership of the free sisterhood of the New World under the terms of the Monroe Doctrine.

The joyous outburst of nationalism which at first succeeded the dissensions of the period of war revealed itself in measures passed in Congress, under the leadership of Calhoun and Clay; it spoke clearly in the decisions of Judge Marshall; and in the lofty tone of condemnation with which the country as a whole reproached New England for the sectionalism exhibited in the Hartford Convention.1 It was not only in the field ·of foreign relations, in an aroused national sentiment, and in a realization that the future of the country lay in the development of its own resources that America gave evidence of fundamental change. In the industrial field transportation was revolutionized by the introduction of the steamboat and by the development of canals and turnpikes. The factory system, nourished by the restrictions of the embargo and the war, rapidly developed until American manufactures became an interest which, in political importance, outweighed the old industries of shipping and foreign commerce. The expansion of cotton planting transformed the energies of the south, extended her activity into the newer regions of the Gulf, and gave a new life to the decaying institution of slavery.

From all the older sections, but especially from the south and its colonies in Kentucky and Tennessee, a flood of colonists was spreading along the

1 Babcock, Am. Nationality (Am. Nation, XIII.), chaps. ix., xviii.; Gallatin, Writings, I., 700.

waters of the west. In the Mississippi Valley the forests were falling before the blows of the pioneers, cities were developing where clearings had just let in the light of day, and new commonwealths were seeking outlets for their surplus and rising to industrial and political power. It is this vast development of the internal resources of the United States, the “Rise of the New West," that gives the tone to the period. "The peace," wrote Webster in later years, ''brought about an entirely new and a most interesting state of things; it opened to us other prospects and suggested other duties. We ourselves were changed, and the whole world was changed. Other nations would produce for themselves, and carry for themselves, and manufacture for themselves, to the full extent of their abilities. The crops of our plains would no longer sustain European armies, nor our ships longer supply those whom war had rendered unable to supply themselves. It was obvious, that, under these circumstances, the country would begin to survey itself, and to estimate its own capacity of improvement." 1

These very forces of economic transformation were soon followed by a distinct reaction against the spirit of nationalism and consolidation which had flamed out at the close of the War of 1812. This was shown, not only in protests against the loose -construction tendencies of Congress, and in denunciations of the decisions of the great chief

1 Webster, Writings (National ed.), VI., 28.

justice, but more significantly in the tendency of the separate geographical divisions of the country to follow their own interests and to make companions with one another on this basis.

From one point of view the United States even in this day of its youth, was more like an empire than a nation. Sectionalism had been fundamental in American history before the period which we have reached. The vast physiographic provinces of the country formed the basis for the development of natural economic and social areas, comparable in their size, industrial resources, and spirit, to nations of the Old World. In our period these sections underwent striking transformations, and engaged, under new conditions, in the old struggle for power. Their leaders, changing their attitude towards public questions as the economic conditions of their sections changed, were obliged not only to adjust themselves to the interests of the sections which they represented, but also, if they would achieve a national career, to make effective combinations with other sections.1

This gives the clue to the decade. Underneath the superficial calm of the “Era of Good Feeling," and in contradiction to the apparent absorption of all parties into one, there were arising new issues, new party formations, and some of the most profound changes in the history of American evolution.

1 Turner, "Problems of American History," in Congress of Arts and Sciences, St. Louis, II.

The men of the time were not unaware of these tendencies. Writing in 1823, Henry Clay declared I that 1it was a just principle to inquire what great interests belong to each section of our country, and to promote those interests, as far as practicable, consistently with the Constitution, having always an eye to the welfare of the whole. '' Assuming this principle," said he, " does anyone doubt that if New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and the Western States constituted an independent nation, it would immediately protect the important interests in question? And is it not to be feared that, if protection is not to be found for vital interests, from the existing systems, in great parts of the confederacy, those parts will ultimately seek to establish a system that will afford the requisite protection?" 1

While the most prominent western statesman thus expressed his conviction that national affairs were to be conducted through combinations between sections on the basis of peculiar interests at first a nationalist, later the leader of the south, changed his policy to a similar system of adjustments between the rival sections. John Quincy Adams, in 1819, said of Calhoun: "he is above all sectional and factious prejudices more than any other statesman of this union with whom

1 Clay, Works, IV., 81, 82; Annals of Cong., 18 Cong., l Sess., II., 1997, 2423.

have ever acted." 1 But Calhoun, by the close of the decade, was not only complaining that the protective policy of certain sections set a dangerous example "of separate representation, and association of great Geographical interests to promote their prosperity at the expense of other interests," but he was also convinced that a great defect in our system was that the separate geographical interests were not sufficiently guarded. 2 Speaking, in 1831, of the three great interests of the nation the north, the south, and the west - he declared that they had been struggling in a fierce war with one another, and that the period was approaching which was to determine whether they could be reconciled or not so as to perpetuate the Union. 3

We see, therefore, that, in the minds of some of I the most enlightened statesmen of this decade, American politics were essentially a struggle for power between rival sections. Even those of most enlarged national sympathies and purposes accepted the fact of sectional rivalries and combinations as fundamental in their policies. To understand the period, we must begin with a survey of the separate sections in the decade from 1820 to 1830, and determine what were the main interests shown in each and impressed upon the leaders who represented them.

1 Adams, Memoirs, V., 361, VI., 75.

2 Am . Hist. Assoc., Report 1899, II., 250.

3 Am. Hist. Rev., VI., 742; cf. J. Q. Adams, in Richardson, Messages and Papers, II., 297; J. Taylor, New Views, 261; [Turnbull], The Crisis, No. 2.

For the purposes of such a survey, the conventional division into New England, middle region, south, and west may be adopted. It is true that within each of these sections there were areas which were so different as to constitute almost independent divisions, and which had close affiliations with other sections. Nevertheless, the conventional grouping will reveal fundamental and contrasted interests and types of life between the various sections. In the rivalries of their leaders these sectional differences found political expression. By first presenting a narrative of forces in the separate sections, the narrative of events in the nation will be better understood.

A sectional survey, however, cannot fully exhibit one profound change, not easy to depict, except by its results. This was the formation of the self-conscious American democracy, strongest in the west and middle region, but running across all sections and tending to divide the people on the lines of social classes. This democracy came to its own when Andrew Jackson triumphed over the old order of things and rudely threw open the sanctuary of federal government to the populace.

Source:  Turner, Frederick Jackson, Rise of the New West. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 14, 3-9. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.


WESTON, Anne Warren, Weymouth, Massachusetts, abolitionist leader.  Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society (BFASS).  Executive Committee, American Anti-Slavery society (AASS), 1843-1864.  Counsellor, Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, 1844-1860.  

(Dumond, 1961, p. 275; Mabee, 1970, p. 222; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 199; Yellin, 1994, pp. 40n, 41, 43n, 45, 56, 57n, 61-62, 64, 173, 176n, 253n, 258, 259, 289, 294)


WESTON, Caroline, abolitionist leader.  Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society (BFASS). Vice President, Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, 1843-1859.

(Rodriguez, 2007, p. 199; Yellin, 1994, pp. 60, 62, 64n, 65, 172, 176, 253n, 256, 285, 294)


WESTON, Deborah, Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society (BFASS).

(Yellin, 1994, pp. 40n, 43n, 62, 172, 173, 176, 257-259, 285, 294)



THE dominant movement with which this volume deals is territorial expansion. The movement began with the planting of the English Colonies in America, and continued with resistless energy, even after the mighty push of imperial Britain was no longer felt. Conquering, purchasing and. compromising, the Anglo-Americans extended their dominion to the shores of the Gulf and the summit of the Rockies; and finally, during the years 1841-1850, came the great impulse which carried the boundaries of the United States to the Rio Grande and to the Pacific.

To suppose that this expansion was due simply to a desire for territorial aggrandizement and increase of territory is to misinterpret all American history: without some other impulse, the movement could never have shown such energy and persistence; it has been effective and successful because supported by an adventurous and aggressive people. Though the explorer has often penetrated deep into the unbroken wilderness, the colonist has never been too far behind to hear his call, and in due course of time to answer. The American population, to this day hardly anywhere so overcrowded as to press on the means of subsistence, has always been restless and shifting. A speculative sense of near chances has sent the pioneer wandering through trackless wastes, and planted the settler's cabin far beyond the reach of neighbors. The gigantic strides with which the political boundary has moved westward have not been sufficient to keep it always beyond the advancing line of settlement, and the pioneer has shown it little respect. Whether following the flag or pushing on in advance of it, the population of the United States has moved steadily towards the West.

This forward movement of the people has been of fundamental importance in American history. It has worked more potently than all things else for the establishment of true nationality in the United States, and for the shaping of a national character,1 and they for whom it is obscured by party struggles or the conduct of administrations fail to understand

1 Cf. Turner, "Significance of the Frontier in American History'. (Am. Hist. Assoc., Report, 1893, pp. 199-227); Wilson, "The Proper Perspective of American History" (Forum, XIX., 544-559). 

the real experience out of which this character has grown .

Certain aspects of the movement deserve special attention. In the first place, its effect was strongly democratic. The planting of the English colonies established in the strip between the Alleghenies and the sea a civilization changed from its original in many respects, but still essentially English. The principal modification was due to the levelling results of settlement in wild lands. Distinctions of rank and privilege were mainly left behind, and immigrants to America shared almost a common lot. As time passed and the colonists prospered and accumulated wealth, there was a tendency in their social evolution back towards the complex English system. The advance into the West, however, brought a new levelling, and developed that intensified democracy which is one of the most essential characteristics of the American.

In the second place, the westward flow of population was marked by a natural selection of the more adventurous and energetic, who went forward to take the risks and endure the hardships of the pioneer. The West was filled with a self -reliant and self-confident people, whose radical tendencies must someday come in conflict, in the national councils, with the conservatism of the East.1 Furthermore, the movement until 1830 was almost entirely Anglo-American.  From 1821 to 1830

1 Cf. Turner, New West (Am. Nation, XIV.), chap. vii.

all the arrivals at American ports, both of immigrants and visitors, were less than one hundred and fifty thousand; 1 and while no exact figures are available for the yearn 1775-1820, the total was relatively small. The institutions which had been inherited from England were therefore carried into the West by Americans of British descent, and were well established before the great flow of European immigration started.

The various energies, some of them highly incompatible, of which the great wave of expansion during the forties was the effect, were so complex and so difficult to measure that it is by no means easy to understand or to state them. Throughout the whole undoubtedly worked, with decisive influence; the old land hunger" of the race; but it was modified in many ways. 2 The net result was to weaken the impulse but not seriously to check the movement, of which the real strength was shown by its vast effects, in spite of the handicap laid on it by the conditions.

The spirit of the age worked strongly for the movement, for more than half a century Europe had been in a state of social and political ferment, and if America was less profoundly stirred it only because there was not here the same necessity for revolution. The apathy in which the masses of the fourth estate had lain so long, especially on the

1 U. S. industrial Commission, Report, XV., 267 (1901;.

2 Cf. Brown, Lower South in History, 74-77.

Continent, was at an end; they had finally been roused to self-consciousness, and had undertaken a desperate struggle against the tyranny of privilege. As their hopes and aspirations grew, they naturally began to look to the United States, where monopoly had not completed the work of exploitation, and caste had not barred the career of the poor and humbly born.

The Americans themselves were under the, influence of a still stronger aversion to privilege, and were beginning to grow impatient of its surviving forms in the United States. In Rhode Island this feeling manifested itself in the Dorr Rebellion of I842, a popular movement against the narrow limitation of the suffrage by the charter of the colony, which had been preserved as the constitution of the state. The movement. took on a revolutionary aspect, and at one time there was a, collision threatened between two rival organizations,, each Claiming to be the government of the state; but when President Tyler indicated his determination to support that which had been established on the pre-existing constitution, the insurrection collapsed. The result, however, was, a new constitution, with more, liberal provisions as to suffrage. 1

In New York the same spirit was apparent in the Anti-Rent agitation, a series of disturbances which lasted from 1839 to 1847, growing out of efforts to

1 Richardson, Messages and Papers, IV, 283,-307; the best monograph is Mowry, Dorr War

enforce the rights of certain heirs under a system of perpetual leases derived from the Dutch patroons. These disorders were not promptly suppressed, because popular sympathy was with their promoters; and the perpetual leases were at length displaced by tenures in fee-simple. 1

There was an easy escape from these conditions, and it serves to explain the westward impulse. More freedom and better opportunity were always to be found “a little further on”; and the grand march of home-seekers swept over the Alleghenies· and even the Rockies, ending only at the Pacific coast.

Immigration from Europe began to increase rapidly after 1830, and it was especially large during the years 1846-1848, which were marked by famine in Ireland and revolution on the Continent. From 1845 to 1850 the average annual influx was about three hundred thousand. The immigrants distributed themselves mainly in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania; but a large number, especially of Germans, were already entering the country north of the Ohio and the upper part of the Mississippi Valley. 2

The total area of the United States in l 840 ·was about eighteen hundred thousand square miles, of which the settled part, with as many as two in-

1 Cheyney, Anti-Rent Agitation in the State of New York (Univ. of Pa., Publications, No. 2 

2 "U. S. Seventh Census (1850), Population, xxxviii. 

habitants to the square mile, was a little over eight hundred thousand. The frontier lay along the western border of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri; excluded a narrow strip of northern Missouri, the upper third of the present area of Maine, and most of the peninsular part of Florida, and included the southeastern part of the territory of Iowa and the southern part of the territory of Wisconsin and of the state of Michigan.1

The total population in 1840 was 17,069,453, of whom 14,195,805 were white and 2,873,648 were negroes. The distribution was as follows: in the North Atlantic division, 6,618,758 whites and 142,324 negroes; in the South Atlantic, 2,327,982 whites and 1,597,317 negroes; in the North Central, exclusive of Missouri -which for the purposes  of this enumeration should be grouped with the slaveholding states-2,938,307 whites and 29,533 negroes; and in the South Central, together with Missouri, 2,304,658 whites and 1,104,474 negroes.2 Of the negroes in the slave-holding states, about three hundred thousand were free, of whom about seventy-five thousand were in Maryland and fifty-five thousand in Virginia. 3

During the period 1790 -1840 the centre of the entire population of the United States moved west-

1 U. S. Twelfth Census (1900), Statistical Atlas, Plate 7.

2 These figures are from U. S. Census Bureau, Negroes in the United States (Bulletin No. 8), 101-103.

3 U. S. Seventh Census (1850), Population, xxxviii.

ward, keeping close to the parallel of 39°, from a paint twenty-three miles east of Baltimore to: a point sixteen miles south of Clarksburg in what is now West Virginia. Meanwhile the centre of negro population had moved southwestward from a point twenty-seven miles southeast of Petersburg, Virginia, to the neighborhood of Asheville, North Carolina. While the whites were pushing westward, the negroes were evidently moving towards the cotton and cattle belt in the genial lowlands of the South.1

In 1840 only eight and a half per cen. of the total population lived in cities of eight thousand or more inhabitants. There were forty -four such cities, most of which, especially the more populous, were in the North Atlantic states. The slave-holding states contained thirteen. The states showing the largest concentration in cities, with approximate percentages, were Rhode Island, with 38; Louisiana, 30; Massachusetts, 27; Maryland, 22; New York 20; Pennsylvania, 14; Delaware, 11, The cities having over one hundred thousand inhabitants, with their population in round numbers, were New York,, 312,000; Philadelphia, 220,000; Baltimore, 102,000; and New Orleans, 102,000. 2 St. Louis had only a little more than 16,000, and Chicago less than 5000. The difference between the

1 U. S. Twelfth Census (1900,), Statistical Atlas, 37, and, Plate 16; location estimated from data given in U. S. Census Bureau, Negroes in the United States (Bulletin No. 8), 24, 25.

2 U. S. Seventh Census (1850), Compendium, 193.

industrial organization in the manufacturing and commercial North and that in the agricultural South is well illustrated by the relative excess of urban population in the former.1

The most important modification of the expansion movement was that due to the progress of sectionalization. Up to 1830 the drift of American political development was, on the whole, strongly nationalistic, because of certain permanent tendencies which exist among all progressive peoples and work for economic and political centralization. Improved means of intercommunication, the growth of the West, and the persistent and successful struggle for a satisfactory international status for the American Union had more or less completely overcome the particularism that was so strong before the War of 1812. After 1830, however, the states gradually separated into two great groups, a northern and a southern, with antagonistic interests and ideals, whose differences grew ever more pronounced and intense until the end was civil war. 2

The causes of sectionalization were fundamentally economic. They consisted in diverse natural conditions which tended irresistibly towards the production of two radically different industrial systems and two inharmonious varieties of civilization.

1 U. S. Twelfth Census (1900), Statistical Atlas, 40, and Plates 20, 22.

2 Cf. Chadwick Causes of the Civil War (Am. Nation, XIX.), chap. iii.

The effect of these conditions was that, while the North changed rapidly, the South continued relatively the same. At first both had slavery; but the North found it unprofitable and gave it up, while the South, where the climate and other conditions invited the use of slave labor, held on to it, and finally came to look upon it as an economic necessity. Both alike in the earlier stages of their history depended for subsistence mainly on agriculture; and in the South the extent of fertile land and the availability of slaves for its cultivation emphasized this dependence, and in this way served to hinder diversification of industries and even of crops; while in the North attention was rapidly diverted towards commerce and manufactures. Both alike, when independence was declared, and even when the Constitution was adopted, regarded the Union as a confederacy from which any state might withdraw if it desired to do so, and this view the South continued to hold afterwards-even to the extreme of secession and of civil war; but the North, seeing the advantage of the national machinery provided by the Constitution for the support of its policy and the promotion of its interests, was gradually led to use its growing strength through that machinery and thus to adopt the nationalistic attitude. Under such circumstances it was but natural for the weaker South, even if there had been far less historical justification for its attitude, to fall back on the defensive theory of state rights. The political struggle which was the outcome of this alignment gave each section for the time a high degree of solidarity. Thus were the states of the North and those of the South gradually fused into two great opposing masses, and the Union became a house divided against itself.1

The main factor in the economic divergence of the sections was slavery. The effect of this institution in developing a local interest began to appear with the first efforts of the states to form a union. It caused the adoption of that peculiar basis of representation known as the "federal ratio," which became in the course of time a fruitful source of ill feeling between the North and South, 2 but which for the moment seemed the easiest and best means of dealing with a troublesome question. There can be little doubt that the standard histories of the United States have overemphasized the importance of the differences concerning slavery previous to Jackson's administration, 3 for these differences had not then become prominent and strenuous as in later days.

1 Upon this vexed question, cf. Van Tyne, Am. Revolution, chap. xi.; McLaughlin, Confederation and Constitution, chap. xiv.; MacDonald, Jacksonian Democracy, chap. v. (Am. Nation, IX., X., XV.); cf., also, Lodge, Daniel Webster, 186 et seq.; Wilson, Division and Reunion, 47.

2 Cong. Globe, 28 Cong., 2 Sess., App., 213, 343. 

3 Cf. Farrand, "Compromises of the Constitution” (Am. Hist. Review, IX., 479-489); Turner, New West (Am. Nation, XIV.), chap. x.

Even the sharp struggle which preceded the Missouri Compromise revealed tendencies towards a breach between the slave-holding and non-slave-holding states rather than any intense sectional hostility. But the final conflict between the sections had already been forecast by the invention of the cotton gin. This gave the last great impulse to the tendency that was shaping the southern industrial system within narrow grooves. Thenceforth agriculture was the dominant occupation in the South, cotton far overshadowed all other products in importance, and slavery became securely entrenched where cotton -growing was profitable. As North and South diverged, the industrial conflict which accompanied the process of territorial expansion became steadily more "irrepressible''; nor was it unnatural that this conflict should react in such a way as to strengthen and intensify the sectional antagonism out of which it sprang.1

But the forces which were working for sectionalization become clearly evident only after a study of the rapid and thorough-going changes in the industrial system of the North. The abolition of slavery in the northern states is hardly to be regarded as a decided change; else it, might have proved far more difficult to bring it about by legislative process. Slave labor could be made generally available and profitable only where its organization was rendered possible by the conditions

1 Cf. Hart, Slavery and Abolition (Am. Nation, XVI.), chap. xxi.

under which the plantation flourished. Since it could not be used to advantage in the more varied industries of the North, 1 slavery had no depth of root in that section, and its disappearance marked no economic revolution. The real change was from the agricultural to the manufacturing and commercial system which marked the period subsequent to the War of 1812, and which was confined almost entirely to the North. The industrial differentiation between North and South, of which an incident was the movement against slavery north of Mason and Dixon's line, was now emphasized in a reverse way by the sectional development of manufacturing; the production of cotton goods refused ·to take root where cotton was growth, and where, as subsequent experience has shown, it has a natural place. In 1810 the total value of manufactured products for the slave-holding states was, in round numbers, $49,000,000 and for the states without slavery, $96,000,000; 2 the corresponding figures for 1840 are respectively $108,000,000 and $375,000,000; while for 1850 they are $168,000,000 and $845,000,000. These figures, taken in conjunction with the concentration of slavery in the South, are sufficient to show how rapidly the conditions were producing industrial sectionalization. 3

1 Cf. Hammond, Cotton Industry, 43-47.

2 Compiled from figures in U. S. Twelfth Census (1900), VII., li., .Iii-., foot-note.

3 U.S. Seventh Census (1850), Compendium, 179.

The sectional antagonism which was the natural outgrowth of the different geographical distribution of two industrial systems contrasted in kind and inharmonious in interest, was soon stimulated by the adoption of the protective policy. What-ever reasons might be urged in support of protection to domestic manufactures, one aspect of it overshadowed, from the southern point of view, all others; and that was that the benefits were absorbed by the North, while the burden fell most heavily on the South. The first serious clash over the policy was that which led South Carolina to assert the right of nullification.1 It was adjusted by a compromise, and the degree of protection which prevailed from that time to the eve of the Civil War was very moderate. This did not mean, however, that the economic differentiation of North and South had been checked; on the contrary, it continued with growing acceleration, as is shown by the figures stated above, indicating how much more rapidly manufactures developed in the North. In the making of textiles, from the outset, production by machinery displaced that by hand; 2 and during the decade 1840-1850 the same change took place to a large extent throughout the whole range of manufacturing; 3 and, as it progressed, so much the more rapidly did the manufacturing industries drift

1 Cf. MacDonald, Jacksonian Democracy (Am. Nation, XV.), chap. ix.

2 Taussig, Tariff Hist., 22.

3 U. S. Twelfth Census (1900), VII., liii.

northward and the economic interests of the sections grow diverse.

By the time that the last great wave of the westward movement was fairly under way, it was evident that the system of civilization in the North and that in the South were rapidly, becoming too unlike to exist in the same nation. The nationalizing tendency must either be checked, or some of the more fundamental differences that were producing sectionalization must disappear. Even had there been no fugitive slaves and no territorial expansion, it would have been hard for the two sections, with such thoroughly divergent ideals, to join in working out a harmonious and consistent scheme of government. There can be no question of the hopeful honesty and sincerity with which the attempt was made by both sides. Never in the history of the world has the policy of mutual concession and compromise had a fairer and more patient trial than in the United States before the Civil War; the failure was sufficient to prove that a satisfactory adjustment was possible only if the Union remained on its original basis, to which the South so resolutely clung; but the preservation of such incompatible elements in the same political and social organization was rendered impracticable by the growth of nationality. 

Every additional step in the progress of centralization made it more certain that the South would someday be forced to submit to the process of that tribunal whose jurisdiction it had steadfastly denied-the federal government. Even territorial expansion, which was apparently the great cause of the continued anti-slavery agitation and of the sectional antagonism that was to end in civil war, was for another point of view the best evidence that the nationalizing energies at work in the United States were growing too strong to be overcome. The movement was, at any rate, decisive in its effect on the nationalistic tendency; but for the West, the North and South could hardly have failed to part in peace, and possibly forever.

The conditions, however, of the westward movement were such as to prevent it from affording a complete check to the sectionalization that was, arraying the North and South against each other. The Western population was by no means completely fused into a single mass with common aims and sympathies; it was distributed in parallel belts in which reappeared, though in much lighter shades, the. characteristic differences of the older sections.1 It is questionable whether slavery had any considerable effect in diverting either European or interstate migration from the South; in taking a westerly direction it only followed a natural tendency to move on parallels. The great highways of commerce and travel, which, so far as they were artificial, were due to the same general causes as

1 For earlier phases of western development, see Turner, New West (Am. Nation, XIV.), chaps. v., vi. 

the migration itself, extended mainly east and west, not north and south. Immigrants from New England and New York moved westward by the Erie Canal, those from Pennsylvania by the central railway and canal system from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, and those from Maryland and Virginia by the National Road. Beyond the Alleghenies the principal available routes were the Great Lakes, the National Road, and the Ohio River. Immigrants from New England and the middle states were predominant in the Ohio Valley and along the Lakes; while the southern part of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and the whole of Missouri were peopled mainly from the South. 1 The economic contrast, while not so sharp in the Mississippi Valley as on the Atlantic slope, was too serious to be disregarded by even the most thorough-going nationalist. Gradually the West also became sectionalized, and the expansionist impulse, with a divided people back of it, lost its unity and steadiness.

The growing influx from Europe stimulated the westward movement in the North, and the free states were soon filled with a teeming population that pressed against the frontier of slavery wherever it sought to expand. This it was that made free states also of California and of Kansas; and this that in the hour of the supreme test gave a new meaning to the Constitution, and cast the balance in favor of nationality.

1 Turner, in Am. Hist. Review, XI., 309, 318.

As the conflict of interests between the North and South became evident, the question of the political balance became one of grave importance. That balance had been preserved by keeping even the number of slave-holding and non-slave-holding states in the Union. In 1841 there were thirteen of each, and the sections were thus equally represented in the Senate. But the territory available for the making of new states that would be likely to adopt slavery was almost exhausted, while in the northwest there remained a vast area from which additional free states could be formed. Besides other motives, therefore, which led the South to look beyond the southwestern boundary, was the desire to maintain the equilibrium in the Senate, and thus to provide a safeguard against legislation hostile to southern interests. It must be remembered, however, that the corresponding motive in the North worked against annexation.

The earlier stages of the expansion movement were marked by great political disorganization. Tyler, who began the movement for the annexation, of Texas on the side of the United States by the negotiation of a treaty, became a "president without a party"; and the quarrel between himself and the Whigs threw them into confusion. The shelving of Van Buren, in 1844, because he opposed annexation, caused serious trouble also among the Democrats. It needs hardly to be said that all these disturbances had their effect in producing friction and retarding the progress of the expansion movement.

The resistance to expansion from the powers whose territory or claims were involved varied widely. In the southwest it encountered weak and distracted Mexico, which could scarcely be regarded at that time as a nation at all; the chief difficulty in dealing with that country was the want of a standard to regulate national conduct towards a people so ill organized and yet so full of national pride, and towards a government so punctilious yet so irresponsible and so uncertain in its personnel and its policy, who made it a troublesome question where to fix the limit of forbearance. To the northwest, however, resistance came from Great Britain, strong, consolidated, and a devoted worshipper of her own god Terminus. In dealing with such a power, the problem was to find the proper mean between the policy of concession which would invite encroachment and that of quixotic self-assertion which might lead to an unnecessary war. The difference in the conditions of expansion southwestward and northwestward was in some degree reflected in the comparative size of the areas acquired respectively in those two directions.

Source:  Garrison, George Pierce, Westward Extension. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 17, 3-21. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.



See also Political Parties and Slavery (1848)


WHIPPER, William J., 1804?-1876, free African American, abolitionist, reformer, activist, writer, advocate of non-violence.

(Dumond, 1961, p. 340; Mabee, 1970, pp. 36, 57, 58, 62, 64, 71, 92, 106, 134, 187, 193, 197, 203, 248, 276, 277, 293, 298, 305-307, 337, 342, 390n15; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 44; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 12, p. 6)


WHIPPLE, Charles K., Boston, Massachusetts, abolitionist, American Anti-Slavery Society, Manager, 1836-1837, Executive Committee, 1840-1841.  Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, 1846-1860.


WHIPPLE, George, Oberlin, Ohio, New York, abolitionist, clergyman, educator.  Secretary of the anti-slavery American Missionary Association (AMA).  American Anti-Slavery Society, Manager, 1839-1840.  American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, Executive Committee, 1844-1855, Treasurer, 1846-1855.  Teacher at Lane University.  Professor and principal, Oberlin College.  Worked in Freeman’s Bureau after the Civil War.  Agent of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS). 

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 163, 165, 185; Mabee, 1970, pp. 153, 235, 403n25; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 166)


WHITE, James, Essex County, New Jersey, abolitionist.  Manager, 1833-1840, and founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, December 1833.

(Abolitionist, Vol. I, No. XII, December, 1833)


WHITE, Lydia, Society of Friends, Quaker, abolitionist.  Original founding member of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1834.

(Drake, 1950, p. 140; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 416; Yellin, 1994, pp. 69, 161, 163, 278-279)


WHITMAN, Walt, 1819-1892, poet, essayist, journalist. Wrote antislavery poetry.  Supported the Wilmot Proviso and was opposed to the inclusion of slavery in the new territories.  His poetry presented his views on the equality of the races.  Supported the abolition of slavery, but did not necessarily support the tactics of the abolitionist movement.  In 1856, he wrote to the people of the South, in an unpublished work, “You are either to abolish slavery, or it will abolish you.”

(Hughes, Meltzer, & Lincoln, 1968; Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 485-486; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 143)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WHITMAN, Walt, or Walter, poet, b. in West Hills, Long Island, N. Y., 31 May, 1819. He was educated in the public schools of Brooklyn and New York city, and learned printing, working at that trade in summer and teaching in winter. Subsequently he also acquired skill as a carpenter. For brief periods he edited newspapers in New Orleans and in Huntington, L. I. In 1847-'8 he made long pedestrian tours through the United States, generally following the courses of the great western rivers, and also extended his journey through Canada. His chief work, “Leaves of Grass” (New York, 1855), is a series of poems dealing with moral, social, and political problems, and more especially with the interests involved in 19th century American life and progress. In it he made a new and abrupt departure as to form, casting his thoughts in a mould the style of which is something between rhythmical prose and verse, altogether discarding rhythm and regular metre, but uttering musical thoughts in an unconventional way which is entirely his own. Expecting the opposition and abuse with which his volume was assailed, he speaks of it as a sortie on common literary use and wont, on both spirit and form, adding that a century may elapse before its triumph or failure can be assured. For thirty years Whitman has been correcting and adding to this work, and he says that he looks upon “Leaves of Grass” “now finished to the end of its opportunities and powers, as my definitive carte visite to the coming generations of the New World, if I may assume to say so.” In the war Whitman's brother was wounded on the battle-field, which led to the poet's at once hastening to join him in the camp, where he afterward remained as a volunteer army nurse at Washington and in Virginia in 1862-'5. His experiences during this service are vividly recorded in “Drum-Taps” (1865) and “Memoranda during the War” (1867). His fatigue and night-watching in 1864 brought on a serious illness, from which he has never entirely recovered. In 1870 he published a volume of prose essays called “Democratic Vistas,” a new edition of which has been issued by Walter Scott (London, 1888), with a preface written by Whitman in April of the same year. In this volume he explains that he uses the word “Democrat” in its widest sense as synonymous with the American form of government. From 1865 till 1874 Whitman held a government clerkship in Washington. In February, 1873, the lingering effects of his nursing fatigues and illness during the war culminated in a severe paralytic attack. He left Washington for Camden, N. J., and was recovering when in May of the same year his mother died somewhat suddenly in his presence. This shock caused a relapse. He abandoned Washington and has continued to reside at Camden. Mr. Whitman has been called “the good gray poet.” His admirers, especially in England, have been extravagant in their praise of his works, comparing him with the best of the classic writers, and in this country Ralph Waldo Emerson said on the appearance of “Leaves of Grass”: “I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed . . . . I find incomparable things incomparably said.” On the other hand, the peculiar form of his writings prevents their popularity, and their substance has been widely regarded as of no value. “Leaves of Grass” has even been condemned for indecency on account of its outspokenness, and when a complete edition of the work was published (Boston, 1881) the Massachusetts authorities objected to its sale in that state on the ground of immorality. Besides the works already mentioned, Whitman has published “Passage to India” (1870); “After All, not to Create Only” (1871); “As Strong as a Bird on Pinions Free” (1872); “Two Rivulets,” including “Democratic Vistas” and “Passage to India” (1873); “Specimen Days and Collect” (1883); “November Boughs” (1885); and “Sands at Seventy” (1888). A selection of his poems, by William M. Rossetti, was published (London, 1868). Besides the complete edition of “Leaves of Grass” that has been mentioned, another, edited by Prof. Edward Dowden, has since been issued (Glasgow, Scotland). A popular selection, with introduction by Ernest Rhys, was published by Walter Scott (London, 1886). See “The Good Gray Poet, a Vindication,” by William D. O’Connor (New York, 1866), and “Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person,” by John Burroughs (1866). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI. pp. 485-486.


WHITSON, Thomas, Chester County, Pennsylvania, abolitionist.  Manager and founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), December 1833.  Vice President and Manager, 1833-1837, AASS.

(Drake, 1950, pp. 140, 149; Mabee, 1970, pp. 280-281, 422n27; Abolitionist, Vol. I, No. XII, December, 1833)


WHITTIER, John Greenleaf, 1807-1892, Haverhill, Massachusetts, poet, journalist, newspaper publisher and editor, Society of Friends, Quaker, radical abolitionist.  Wrote antislavery poetry.  Publisher and editor of the Pennsylvania Freeman.  Founding member, Manager, and Secretary of the American Anti-Slavery Society.  Member of the Executive Committee, American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.  Leader and active with the Liberty Party.  Member, Free Soil Party.  Called for immediate abolition of slavery in the United States. 

(Blue, 2005, pp. 5, 37-64; Drake, 1950, pp. 113, 127, 137, 140-142, 158-159, 176, 181, 195; Dumond, 1961, pp. 167, 245, 286, 301; Filler, 1960, pp. 56, 66, 90, 105, 134, 148, 151, 194; Mabee, 1970, pp. 2, 4, 9, 11-13, 18, 21-22, 25-26, 29-30, 35-36, 48, 51, 65, 194, 211, 309, 326, 329, 359, 368, 373, 378; Pease, 1965, pp. 65, 102-104, 123-128; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 161, 433, 641, 723; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 493-494; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 173; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 23, p. 350; The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. I. New York: James T. White, 1892, p. 407)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WHITTIER, John Greenleaf, poet, b. in Haverhill, Mass., 17 Dec., 1807. His parents were members of the Society of Friends, and to the principles and practices of this sect he always remained faithful, conforming even to its peculiarities of speech and garb in a community where such observance, by being singular, must often have been trying to a temperament so shy and sensitive as his. His first American ancestor came to Massachusetts in 1638, and the conversion to Quakerism took place in the second generation of the family, after the settlement of the Bay Colony, at a time when that sect was sternly persecuted. There may therefore be something of heredity in the unswerving constancy of Whittier to unpopular opinions. At the date of his birth Haverhill was still a farming village, one of the prettiest among the many pretty hamlets which then gave a peaceful charm to the rural scenery of Massachusetts. Born on a farm, Whittier's first occupations were those of a farmer's boy, driving the kine to and from pasture, riding to mill, fetching in wood for the undying kitchen-fire, and helping in the lighter labors of haying and harvest. He was thus early brought into that intimate communion with Mother Earth and with Nature which cames not by mere observation, and which gives such a peculiar charm of picturesque truth to so many of his poems. How much he thus learned and to how good profit he put it are visible in many of his poems, but especially in his “Snow-Bound,” which, in addition to its other merits, has now also a historical value as a vivid picture of modes of life even then obsolescent and now almost as far away as those pictured by Homer. And not only will the scenery of New England, both outward and domestic, live in his verse, but it is worth remark that the nobler qualities of the Puritans have nowhere found such adequate literary expression since Milton as in this member of a sect which they did their utmost to suppress. Almost alone among American poets, he has revived the legends of his neighborhood in verse, and his “Floyd Ireson” is among the best of modern ballads, surpassed by none save Scott, if even by him. His schooling in other respects must have been scanty enough, since his only opportumty during boyhood would be the nearest district school (taught commonly by a college student younger than some of his rustic pupils), where he got such training in the simpler rudiments of knowledge as was possible under the conditions then existing. And this training, as usually in the country, was limited to the winter months, when farm-work was necessarily suspended. He has recorded his indebtedness during boyhood to Dr. Elms Weld, of Haverhill, who gave him the freedom of his library.

A farm-hand taught him shoemaking, the common occupation during winter in the fishing and farmmg villages along the coast, and by this means he earned enough to warrant his attending Haverhill academy during six months of 1827. He was now sufficiently learned, according to the simpler notions of those days, to be himself a teacher, and taught in the district school of West Amesbury during the following winter. This supplied the means for another six months at the academy. In Whittier's case, as in that of so many other New Englanders, nothing is more characteristic or more touching than the persistent resolve to get the best education within their reach at whatever sacrifice.

The literary impulse in him must have been strong, for while yet in his nineteenth year he contributed anonymous verse to the poet's corner of the “Free Press,” a journal edited by W. L. Garrison in Newburyport, and enjoyed the furtive bliss of print. Garrison saw signs of promise in these immature experiments, sought out the author, and gave him the precious encouragement of praise and sympathy. This led to a lasting friendship, and, with the traditions of his sect, may have had some influence in preparing Whittier to enlist in the anti-slavery crusade which began with the establishment of the “Liberator” in 1831, and afterward caught so much of its inspiration from his fervid lyrics. The ambition to become a poet was awakened in him appropriately enough by a copy of Robert Burns's poems, which fell into his hands in his fourteenth year.

His father dying, he carried on the farm for the next five years, and in 1835 was sent to the general court from Haverhill. During all these years he had been an industrious writer, seeking an outlet in all directions and contributing poems to John Neal's “Yankee” and to the “New England Magazine,” where the “Autocrat” began his admirable discourses. In 1829 he undertook the editorship of the “American Manufacturer” in Boston, and in 1830 succeeded George D. Prentice as editor of the “Haverhill Gazette” during the first six months of the year, and then of the “New England Weekly Review” in Hartford, Conn. This office he resigned in 1832 on account of failing health and returned home. In 1836 he became secretary of the American anti-slavery society, and afterward removed to Philadelphia, where for a year (1838-'9) he edited the “Pennsylvania Freeman.” This he did with such sincerity that its printing-office was sacked and burned by a mob. At that time it required the courage of passionate conviction to maintain principles the noisier profession of which was to become profitable a few years later. Delicate as his organization was, Whittier faced many a brutal mob with unflinching composure. He was never a mere fanatic, but always quick to recognize and celebrate high qualities even in an adversary, as many of his poems show. He refused to follow Garrison in the renunciation of political action as one means of reform. In 1840 he took up his abode in Amesbury, a quiet village near his birthplace, and there (with the exception of six months spent at Lowell as editor of the “Middlesex Standard”), in the simple dignity of a frugal independence, the fruit of his own literary labors, he has lived ever since, and happily still lives, known and loved wherever our tongue is spoken. From 1847 to 1859 he contributed editorially to the “National Era,” an anti-slavery newspaper published at Washington, in which '”Uncle Tom's Cabin” was first printed.

In his seclusion Whittier was never idle, nor did he neglect his duties as a citizen while confirming his quality as a poet. Whenever occasion offered, some burning lyric of his flew across the country, like the fiery cross, to warn and rally. Never mingling in active politics (unless filling the office of presidential elector may be called so), he probably did more than anybody in preparing the material out of which the Republican party was made. When the civil war was impending he would have evaded it if possible by any concession short of surrender, as his “Word for the Hour” (January, 1861) shows. While the war continued he wrote little with direct reference to it, and never anything that showed any bitterness toward the authors of it. After it was over he would have made the terms of settlement liberal and conciliatory. He was too wise and too humane to stir the still living embers of passion and resentment for any political end however dear to him.

Of all American poets, with the single exception of Longfellow, Whittier has been the most popular, and in his case more than in that of any other the popularity has been warmed through with affection. This has been due in part to the nobly simple character of the man, transparent through his verse, in part to the fact that his poetry, concerning itself chiefly with the obvious aspects of life and speculation, has kept close to the highest levels of the average thought and sentiment. His themes have been mainly chosen from his own time and country—from his own neighborhood even—he deals with simple motives and with experiences common to all, and accordingly his scenery (whether of the outward or the inward eye) is domestically welcome to all his countrymen. He is never complex in thought or obscure in expression, and if sometimes his diction might gain in quality by a more deliberate choice, yet the pellucid simplicity of his phrase and the instant aptness of his epithet as often secure a more winning felicity through his frankness of confidence in the vernacular. His provincialisms of word or accent have an endearing property to the native ear, though even that will consent to a few of his more licentious rhymes. One feels that it is a neighbor who is speaking. Nor should the genial piety of his habitual thought and the faith that seeks no securer foothold than the Rock of Ages, on which the fathers stood so firmly, be overlooked among the qualities that give him a privilege of familiar entrance to a multitude of hearts and minds which would be barred against many higher, though not more genuine, forms of poetry. His religion has the sincerity of Cowper's without those insane terrors that made its very sincerity a torture. There are many points of spiritual likeness between the English and the American poet, especially in their unmetaphysicized love of outward natures, their austerity tempered with playful humor, and in that humanity of tone which establishes a tie of affectionate companionship between them and their readers. Whittier has done as much for the scenery of New England as Scott for that of Scotland. Many of his poems (such, for example, as “Telling the Bees”), in which description and sentiment mutually inspire each other, are as fine as any in the language.

Whittier, as many of his poems show, and as, indeed, would be inevitable, has had his moments of doubt and distrust, but never of despair. He has encountered everywhere the moral of his inscription on a sun-dial, convinced that “there's light above me by the shade below.” He, like others, has found it hard to reconcile the creed held by inheritance with the subtle logic of more modern modes of thought. As he himself has said:

“He reconciled as best he could

 Old faith and fancies new.”

But his days have been “bound each to each with natural piety”; he has clung fast to what has been the wholesome and instructive kernel of all creeds; he has found consolation in the ever-recurring miracles, whether of soul or sense, that daily confront us, and in the expression of his own delight and wonder and gratitude for them has conveyed that solace to the minds and hearts of all his readers. One quality above all others in Whittier—his innate and unstudied Americanism—has rendered him alike acceptable to his countrymen and to his kindred beyond the sea. His first volume was “Legends of New England,” in prose and verse (Hartford, 1831), which has been followed by “Moll Pitcher” (1832); “Mogg Megone” (Boston, 1836); “Ballads” (1838); “Lays of My Home, and other Poems” (1843); “Miscellaneous Poems” (1844); the first English edition of his poetry, entitled “Ballads, and other Poems,” with an introduction by Elizur Wright (London, 1844); “The Stranger in Lowell” (1845); “Supernaturalism in New England” (New York and London, 1847); “Leaves from Margaret Smith's Journal” (Boston, 1849); “Voices of Freedom” (Philadelphia, 1849); a larger English collection of his “Poetical Works” (London, 1850); “Old Portraits and Modern Sketches” (Boston, 1850); “Songs of Labor, and other Poems,” and “The Chapel of the Hermits, and other Poems” (1853); “A Sabbath Scene: a Sketch of Slavery in Verse” (1853); “Literary Recreations and Miscellanies” (1854); “The Panorama, and other Poems” (1856); “Complete Poetical Works” (2 vols., 1857); “Home Ballads and Poems” (1860); “Snow-Bound” (1862); a new edition of his “Complete Poetical Works” (1863); “In War Time, and other Poems” (1863); “National Lyrics” (1865); a collection of his “Prose Works” (2 vols., 1866); “The Tent on the Beach” (1867); “Among the Hills” (1868); an illustrated edition of his “Complete Poetical Works” (1868); one corresponding in typography with the “Prose Works” (1869); a volume of his “Ballads of New England” contains sixty illustrations by various artists (1869); “Miriam, and other Poems” (1870); “The Pennsylvania Pilgrim, and other Poems”  (1872); “Hazel Blossoms” (1874); “Mabel Martin” (1875); a new collected edition of his “Poetical Works” comprising poems that he had written till the date of publication (1875); “Centennial Hymn” (1876); “The Vision of Echard, and other Poems” (1878); “The King's Missive, and other Poems” (1881); “Bay of Seven Islands, and other Poems” (1883); “Poems of Nature” (1885); and “St. Gregory's Guest, and Recent Poems” (1886). A final edition of his poetical and prose works has been supervised by himself, and includes his sister's poems (7 vols., 1888-'9). See a “Biography,” by Francis H. Underwood (Boston, 1875; new ed., 1883), and “John G. Whittier: his Life, Genius, and Writings,” by W. Sloane Kennedy (1882). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI. pp. 493-494.


WILKESON, Samuel, 1781-1848, Buffalo, New York, manufacturer, businessman, real estate, political leader, jurist, president, American Colonization Society (ACS).  Director of the ACS, 1839-1841, Member of the Executive Committee, 1839-1841. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 509-510; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 218; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, pp. 237-239, 308)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WILKESON, Samuel, manufacturer, b. in Carlisle, Pa., in 1781; d. in the mountains of Tennessee in July, 1848. His father, John, a native of Ireland of Scotch descent, came to this country in 1760, settled in Delaware, and served against the British in the war of the Revolution. The son received few educational advantages, and worked on a farm till about 1806, when he began his career as a builder and owner of vessels and a trader on Lake Erie and elsewhere. During the war of 1812 he supplied Gen. William Henry Harrison with transports for the use of the troops in invading Canada. In 1814 he settled in Buffalo and engaged in business as a merchant. In 1819 he was an active advocate of the construction of the Erie canal, and in 1822 he was chiefly instrumental in securing the selection of Buffalo as its terminus. He was appointed first judge of the Erie court of common pleas in February, 1821, though he was without a legal education, was elected to the state senate in 1842, and served in that body and in the court for the correction of errors for six years. In 1836 he was elected mayor of Buffalo. He erected and put in operation a furnace in Mahoning county, Ohio, the first in this country to “blow in” on raw bituminous coal and smelt iron with that fuel uncoked, built the first iron-foundry in Buffalo, and established in that city the business of manufacturing steam-engines, stoves, and hollow-ware. He favored a system of gradual and compensated emancipation of the slaves, and advocated the colonization of the negroes on the west coast of Africa. He afterward removed to Washington, the headquarters of the American colonization society, over which he presided, for two years edited its organ, the “African Repository,” directed the affairs of the colony of Liberia, establishing commercial relations between it and Baltimore and Philadelphia, and gathered colonists wherever he could in the south. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI. pp. 509-510.


WILLEY, Austin, 1806-1896, reformer, abolitionist, clergyman. Congregational minister.  Editor of Advocate of Freedom.

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 518; Dumond, 1961, pp. 301, 405n12; Willey, Austin, The History of the Anti-Slavery Cause in State and Nation, Portland, Maine, 1886)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WILLEY, Austin, reformer, b. in Campton, N. H., 24 June, 1806. He was educated at Pembroke academy, studied at Bangor theological seminary, where he was graduated in 1837, and in 1839 became editor of the “Advocate of Freedom,” an anti-slavery paper that had been established in the preceding year at Brunswick, Me., which he conducted until the abolition of slavery. He was also an early advocate of prohibition, and contributed to the adoption of the Maine law. He has published in book-form a “Family Memorial” (San Francisco, 1865), and “History of the Anti-Slavery Cause in State and Nation” (Portland, 1886). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI. pp. 518.


WILLEY, Waitman Thomas, 1811-1900, lawyer.  U.S. Senator from Virginia (1861), later West Virginia (1863).  Presented the Constitution of West Virginia and got the U.S. Congress to accept its provisions, which called for the gradual abolition of slavery from the new state.  Became Radical Republican.  Served in Senate until March 1871.  Voted for Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery.

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 519; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 246; Congressional Globe)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WILLEY, Waitman Thomas, senator, b. in Monongalia county, Va. (now W. Va.), 18 Oct., 1811. He was graduated at Madison college, Uniontown, Pa., in 1831, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1833. He was clerk of the county and circuit courts successively from 1841 till 1855, and a member in 1850-'1 of the Virginia constitutional convention. Mr. Willey was a delegate to the State convention that met at Richmond in February, 1861, and after the adoption of the ordinance of secession was elected by the Unionist legislature at Wheeling to occupy the seat in the U. S. senate that was vacated by James M. Mason, taking his seat on 13 July, 1861. He attended the convention that decided to create a new state, was chosen to represent West Virginia in the senate, and took his seat on 3 Dec., 1863. In the following year he was re-elected for the full term that ended on 3 March, 1871, and served as chairman of the committees on patents and on claims. In 1866 he was a delegate to the Loyalists' convention at Philadelphia, and in 1871 he was a member of the Constitutional convention of West Virginia. He has written for reviews and delivered lectures on various subjects, including a series on “Methodism” in 1853. Allegheny college gave him the degree of LL. D. in 1863. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI. pp. 519.


WILLIAMS, Peter, Jr., 1780-1840, New York City, African American, clergyman, author, abolitionist, political leader.  Early in his career, he favored Black colonization.  Co-founder of first African American newspaper, Freedom’s Journal in 1827.  Manager and founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), December 1833.  Manager, 1833-1836, and Member of the Executive Committee, 1834-1835, of the AASS.

(Rodriguez, 2007, p. 155; Abolitionist, Vol. I, No. XII, December, 1833; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 12, p. 160)


WILLIAMSON, PASSMORE, 1822-1895, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, businessman and abolitionist.  Secretary of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society and Vigilance Committee.  Aided escaped slaves Jane Johnson and her two sons in 1855.  He was subsequently jailed for his actions.  (Still, 1872; Wilson, 1972, Vol. 2, pp. 445-451)

See also Johnson, Jane, Fugitive Slave Case

Chapter: “The Arbitrary Enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

A case arose in Philadelphia in July, 1855, that revealed the readiness of some judicial officers at least to become the instruments of the Slave Power. John H. Wheeler of North Carolina, United States minister to Nicaragua, passed through Philadelphia with three persons whom he claimed as slaves. By judicial decision this slave woman and her children, having been brought into the free State of Pennsylvania, were free. Passmore Williamson, acting for the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, went on board the boat, about to cross the Delaware, and informed her that she and her children were no longer slaves. She took them and started for the wharf; but Wheeler seized her and attempted to prevent her landing. Some colored persons took the children ashore, and Williamson held Wheeler until the mother escaped. Wheeler then petitioned Judge Kane for a writ of habeas corpus, to be directed to Passmore Williamson, for abducting and retaining his slaves.

The writ was granted, and Williamson responded that these persons were not in his custody or power. In the preliminary examination Judge Kane took occasion to say that the “conduct of those who interfered with Wheeler's rights was a criminal, wanton, and cruel outrage." He assumed that a “violent abduction of ' slaves ' had been made by Williamson, assisted by a mob of negroes.' ‘He passionately and harshly declared that Williamson was the only white man in that act of violence who could “interpret either his own duties or the rights of others under the Constitution of the land; and that he had chosen to decide for himself upon the lawfulness as well as the moral propriety of his acts." He said that he knew of no statute of Pennsylvania to divest of the rights of property a citizen of North Carolina because he had found it needful to pass through the State; nor was he aware, if any such statute existed, that it could be recognized as valid in the courts of the United States. As Williamson could not produce the persons, he was committed for contempt of court, because he did not and could not answer the writ to the satisfaction of Judge Kane, and consigned to prison. It was clear that his real offence consisted in his assumption that slavery could not exist in Pennsylvania; and he was imprisoned for an honest and manly refusal to acknowledge that his action, in accordance with that belief, was a crime.

Mr. Williamson sought relief from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. His counsel appeared before the full bench of judges at Bedford, and presented his petition for a writ of habeas corpus to bring him before that court. His counsel, Hopper, Gilpin, and Meredith, were lawyers of learning, high reputation, and social position. They maintained that a per son held as a slave in one State and voluntarily carried by his owner into another State is not a fugitive within the meaning of the Constitution ; that he was subject to the laws of the State into which he had been carried ; that by the law of Pennsylvania a slave brought into the State is free ; that the judge of the district court had no color of jurisdiction ; and that the commitment of Williamson for contempt was " arbitrary, illegal, and utterly null and void." On the 17th of August, Mr. Gilpin and Mr. Meredith addressed the court at great length and with signal ability. Maintaining that it was its right and duty to vindicate the authority and dignity of Pennsylvania, which had been invaded and its jurisdiction ignored, they demanded that Williamson should be restored to his liberty. But their application was refused, a majority of the court saying that the petitioner “carries the key of his prison in his own pocket. He can come out when he will by making terms with the court that sent him there. But if he choose to struggle for a triumph, if nothing will content him but a clean victory or a clean defeat, he cannot expect us to aid him. Our duties are of a widely different kind. They consist in discouraging, as much as in us lies, all such contests with the legal authorities of the country."

Justice Knox did not concur in this opinion. He maintained that if a slave, brought into a free State, escaped from the custody of his master while in that State, the right of the master was not a question arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States; and that a judge of the United States could not issue a writ of habeas corpus directed to one alleged to withhold the possession of a slave from the master, commanding such person to produce the body of the slave before the judge. He expressed, too, the opinion that this action of the court was " the first recorded case where the supreme court of a State has refused the prayer of a citizen for the writ of habeas corpus, to inquire into the legality of an imprisonment by a judge of a federal court for contempt in refusing obedience to a writ void for want of jurisdiction."

Notwithstanding the efforts of eminent lawyers, Williamson was held in prison by the arbitrary and obstinate action of Judge Kane. The next effort in his favor was made by Jane Johnson, the woman who escaped with her children. She, with her counsel, Joseph B. Townsend and John M. Read, -- the latter one of the most eminent lawyers of the country, -- appeared before Judge Kane on the 3d of October, and declared that she and her children were not at the time of her release from the custody of Wheeler, nor had they been since, in the power or control of Williamson. She prayed that the writs taken out by Wheeler, who had sought to reduce her and her children again to slavery, should be quashed, and that Passmore Williamson should be discharged from imprisonment. During the hearing, this judge gave his sanction to the doctrine that slaveholders could bring their slaves into a free State and hold them there as slaves. He denied in the strongest terms that the statutes of a State could deprive a slaveholder of that right; and he went so far as to base it on the law of nations. “How can it be," he exclaimed, " that a state may single out this sort of property, among all the rest, and deny to it the right of passing over its soil,-- passing with its owner, parcel of his travelling equipment ; as much so as the horse he rides, or his coat, or his carpet-bag? " This indiscriminate mingling of human beings with horses, clothing, and carpet-bags indicated and illustrated the man and the judge.

In this case, the judge gave full credence to the allegations of Wheeler and his witnesses, but gave little consideration to the positive testimony of Williamson or of Jane John son. He intimated, however, incidentally, that Williamson's duty was to declare under oath what had become of the alleged slaves, and whether or not they had passed beyond his control. Acting upon this suggestion, his counsel again sought to procure his release. Early in November, upon Williamson's stating, at the suggestion of the judge, that he did not seek to obey the writ by producing the persons because he believed it was entirely impossible for him to do so, he was discharged from this arbitrary arrest and cruel imprisonment, which, wicked and wanton as it was, had been borne with patience, fortitude, and courage.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 448-451.


WILLSON, Joseph, 1817-1895, African American, author, printer, dentist, anti-slavery activist.  Member, Young Men’s Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia.

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 11, p. 197)


WILMOT, David, 1814-1868, lawyer, jurist, anti-slavery activist, U.S. Congressman, Pennsylvania.  He was an early founder of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania.  Introduced Wilmot Proviso into Congress to exclude slavery in territories acquired from Mexico in 1846-1849.  The Proviso stated:  “Provided, That, as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the Republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of any treaty which may be negotiated between them, and to the use by the Executive of the moneys herein appropriated, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall first be duly convicted.”  Congressman Wilmot’s writings suggest that one of his motives was to protect White laborers in the new territory.  In a New York speech, Wilmot talked of the end of slavery when he stated, “Keep it within its given limits… and in time it will wear itself out.  Its existence can only be perpetrated by constant expansion…  Slavery has within itself the seeds of its own destruction.”  In 1856, Wilmot attended the Republican national convention and supported John C. Frémont as its presidential candidate.  He was appointed by the Pennsylvania state legislature to serve in the U.S. Senate from 1861-1863.

(Blue, 2005, pp. 10, 13, 52, 105, 184-212, 265; Dumond, 1961, pp. 359-360; Going, 1966; Mitchell, 2007, pp. 32-33, 47-48, 60, 92, 98, 146, 147, 255n; Morrison, 1967; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 49, 133, 252, 261, 397, 476, 513, 517-518; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 544; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 317; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 23, p. 553)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WILMOT, David, jurist, b. in Bethany, Pa., 20 Jan., 1814; d. in Towanda, Pa., 16 March, 1868. He received an academical education at Bethany and at Aurora, N. Y., was admitted to the bar at Wilkesbarre, Pa., in 1834, and soon began practice at Towanda, where he afterward resided. His support of Martin Van Buren in the presidential canvass of 1836 brought him into public notice, and he was subsequently sent to congress as a Democrat, serving from 1 Dec., 1845, to 3 March, 1851. During the session of 1846, while a bill was pending to appropriate $2,000,000 for the purchase of a part of Mexico, he moved an amendment “that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory.” This, which became known as the “Wilmot proviso,” passed the house, but was rejected by the senate, and gave rise to the free-soil movement. Mr. Wilmot was president-judge of the 13th district of Pennsylvania in 1853-'61, a delegate to the National Republican conventions of 1856, and 1860, acting as temporary chairman of the latter, was defeated as the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania in 1857, and elected to the U. S. senate as a Republican, in place of Simon Cameron, who resigned to become secretary of war in President Lincoln's cabinet, serving from 18 March, 1861, to 3 March, 1863. In that body he was a member of the committees on pensions, claims, and foreign affairs. He was appointed by President Lincoln judge of the U. S. court of claims in 1863, and died in office. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI. pp. 544.



ONE thing that served to weaken greatly the impulse of southwestward expansion and to prevent the absorption of the whole of Mexico as a result of the war was the "growing realization that territorial expansion and the extension of slavery were so inextricably involved with each other that every accession of territory would precipitate a slavery crisis." 1 This created a determined and outspoken opposition to any further acquisition in the southwest. An issue was thus made up which soon became the basis of a new political organization; national party lines began to waver; diverse elements gradually coalesced and unified into two great sectional groups, 2 standing apart and facing each other with resolute purpose, the one to prevent the national government from promoting by any act either of· commission or omission the

1 Bourne, in Am. Hist. Review, V., 502.

2 Cf. Calhoun's speech at Charleston, March 9, 1847, in his Works, IV., 382-396.

interests of slavery, and the other to guard those interests from national interference.1

The process of party reorganization with reference to slavery as the main issue becomes easily traceable during the Mexican War, and the first important phase of it was the struggle over what was termed the Wilmot Proviso. This was an attempt to prevent slavery from following the United States flag southwestward. It proceeded not from the party of opposition to the war, the Whigs, to whom the elections of 1846 had given control of the House, but from the Democracy. The man with whom it originated was Jacob Brinkerhoff, a representative from Ohio, who belonged to the ardent group of dissatisfied followers of Van Buren. 2 He had vigorously opposed the annexation of Texas, and had sought to amend the resolution for its enactment so as to exclude slavery from the western and northwestern half of the territory annexed. 3 It is interesting to note that he at that time claimed half the territory to be annexed for the North as a matter of equity; the Wilmot Proviso, however, was based on the denial of a similar claim on behalf of the South.

During the progress of the Mexican War Brinkerhoff took advantage of a favorable opportunity to

1 Cf. Chadwick, Causes of the Civil War (Am. Nation, XIX.), chap. iv.

2 See his speech on the annexation of Texas, in Cong. Globe, 28 Cong., 2 Sess., 131.

3 Ibid., 132, 192.

raise again the question relative to slavery in the territory whose acquisition was in prospect. Since his attitude towards annexation had weakened his influence with the Democratic majority, he thought it best that some other member of the party whose record could not so easily be used against him should lead in presenting the subject to Congress. The most suitable person was found in David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, who was in favor with the South because of his support of the annexation of Texas and his vote for the Walker tariff. Brinkerhoff himself simply wrote the proviso, and Wilmot introduced it.1 Chase said of it that its Democratic origin made it distasteful to the Whigs. 2 Strong, of New York, represented it in the House as the device of the Barnburners in that state to promote the interests of that division of the Democracy against those of the administration. 3 The circumstances of its origin suggest, if no more, that its introduction was simply a maneuver for political advantage in a family quarrel among the Democrats. If there were other members of Congress who could have thrown a clearer light on the birth of the proviso, they did not choose to do so.

The occasion from which the proviso sprang was Polk's scheme for the acquisition of California and

1 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 16; see Cong. Globe, 29 Cong., 2 Sess., 353.

2 Chase to J. P. Hale, May 12, 1847, in Warden, Chase, 312-315. 

3 Cong. Globe, 29 Cong., 2 Sess., App., 360-3 63. 

New Mexico by a boundary readjustment which was to be a condition of peace. Slidell's letters to Buchanan of January 14 and February 6, 1846, dwelt upon the financial straits of the Paredes government;1 and in the latter Slidell announced that he had contrived to convey the hint that relief might be had if Paredes would make the proper concession as to boundaries. 2 When these letters were received at Washington, President Polk brought before his cabinet the question as to how to obtain the money required as a first payment to relieve the immediate necessities of the Mexican government, in case it should agree to the desired boundary. The cabinet seemed to concur in the view that a considerable amount in cash might induce Paredes to conclude a treaty to which he would not otherwise agree; but Buchanan did not think Congress would make the appropriation.3

Polk then called attention to a similar appropriation made in 1806 for the purchase of the Floridas, and it was finally agreed that he should seek the advice of some of the senators. He had interviews with Allen, chairman of the Senate -committee on foreign relations, Benton, and Cass; and they concurred as to the desirability of speedy action by Congress. 4 The procedure regarded as wisest was

1 House Exec. Docs., 30 Cong., l Sess., VII., No. 60, pp. 51, 57.

2 See p. 223, above.

3 Polk, MS. Diary, March 25, 28, 1846.

4 Ibid., March 28, 29, 30, 1846.  

to have the matter discussed by the Senate in executive session and acted on in open session without further debate. Allen and Benton advised that, in order to secure unanimity of action, Calhoun be taken into their confidence. On being consulted by Polk, about April 1, 1846, Calhoun agreed as to the object, but feared that it would become public and embarrass the settlement of the Oregon question, 1 and this attitude caused Allen to advise the postponement of the matter for a few days. The amount to be asked was placed at one million dollars. Thus it appears that the president wished quietly to obtain the money for the cash payment required to secure the cession of territory at which he was aiming; the details just stated explain the origin of the plan.

Dropped for the time on the advice of Allen, the project lay for several months in abeyance. Meanwhile war was declared, and the victories of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma were won. The offer to negotiate made at the time of Santa Anna's return to Mexico 2 caused the project of the appropriation for boundary readjustment to be revived. Polk consulted Benton, McDuffie, who had become chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, Cass, and Archer, a prominent Whig senator from Virginia and a member of the committee on foreign relations. 3 The first three concurred in the

1 Polk, MS. Diary, March 30 and April 3, 1846.

2 See p. 243, above.

3 Polk. MS. Diary, July 26, 30, 31, 1846.

plan, and Archer spoke favorably of it; and on August 1 it was unanimously agreed in a cabinet meeting-that the advice of the Senate in executive session be asked. The Senate indorsed the plan by a vote of 33 to 19.1 Among those in favor of it were several Whigs, including Corwin and Webster. Polk then had Buchanan address letters to the chairmen of the finance committee of the Senate and the ways and means committee of the House, asking the appropriation; but on learning that the Whig senators who had given their votes in favor of the project threatened to oppose the measure enacting it unless he would openly take responsibility, he sent a message to both houses recommending that they appropriate the amount considered necessary, which had now grown to two millions.

The president's message went to Congress August 8, 1846, and the same day a bill was introduced in the House by McKay, chairman of the committee on ways and means, making the appropriation. To this bill was offered the amendment known as the Wilmot Proviso, the language of which was as follows: "Provided, That, as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the Republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of .any treaty which may be negotiated between them, and to the use by the Executive of the moneys herein appropriated, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of

1 Senate Exec. Journal, VII., 139.

said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall first be duly convicted.'' 1 An amendment limiting the operation of the proviso to territory north of the Missouri Compromise line was defeated by a vote of 54 to 89; and the proviso was then adopted by a vote of 83 to 64. The original friends of the bill now sought to lay it on the table, but the motion was defeated by 78 yeas to 94 nays. It was then finally passed by a vote of 87 to 64. On August 10, 1846 (Monday), it was taken up in the Senate, and a motion was made to strike out the proviso. Davis of Massachusetts took the floor against the motion, and was speaking when the hour came which had been fixed for the end of the session, so that the bill failed, proviso and all.

 Davis was sharply attacked for his conduct, both by the expansionists and the abolitionists, and Polk characterized it as a "disreputable expedient." 2 In defending himself afterwards Davis said that he was unwilling to see the proviso stricken out-as he thought it would have been-without discussion. He claimed to have spoken not more than twenty minutes, and to have been interrupted nine times by business from the House. He said it was his intention, in fact, to conclude his remarks in time for a vote, and he had so promised the chairman of the committee on foreign relations; but the clock in the House was eight minutes ahead of

1 Cong. Globe, 29 Cong., 1 Sess., 1217.

2 Polk, MS. Diary, August 10, 1846.

that in the Senate, and he was cut off unexpectedly by the announcement that the House had adjourned.1 The attack upon him seems to have been without substantial foundation, and to have been due simply to one of the overwrought impulses of the time.

In his annual message at the opening of the next Congress in December, r846, the president again recommended the appropriation. January 3, 1847, Preston King, a Democrat from New York, sought to introduce in the House a bill for the purpose, which fixed the amount at two million dollars, but contained a section excluding slavery from all subsequent territorial acquisitions by the United States. 2 The House refused, by a majority of one, to suspend the rules for the introduction of the bill; but another bill to make the appropriation was taken up by the House on February 8. After a week's discussion it was amended by adding the exclusion clause of the King bill, 3 which had been adopted by Wilmot himself instead of his original proposition, and to which also had been extended the designation "the Wilmot Proviso." In its new form the proviso embodied the same principle, and was only a somewhat more definite announcement of the antislavery programme. The vote for the proviso was 115 to 106; the bill thus amended now passed the a vote of 115 to 105.4

1 Cong. Globe, 29 Cong., 2 Sess., 509.

2 Ibid., 105.

3 lbid., 424.

4 Ibid., 425.

The Senate had under consideration in the meantime a ''three million'' bill of its own. The discussion began on February 5, 1847, and lasted until March 1. Berrien of Georgia, a Whig, offered an amendment declaring the intention of Congress in making the appropriation to be, not the dismemberment of Mexico nor the acquisition of any part of her territory by conquest, but only definite boundary adjustment and the settlement of claims. For this amendment Cass offered a substitute, declaring it to be the sense of Congress in making the appropriation that the war should be vigorously prosecuted to a successful issue, and that there should be obtained from Mexico a ''reasonable indemnity'' to be determined by negotiation. The Cass substitute was finally withdrawn, and the Berrien amendment rejected; there being 24 votes for it and 29 against it. At the last moment an effort was made to amend the bill by adding the Wilmot Proviso, but it failed by a vote of 21 to 31. Among those who were recorded in the negative were six senators from free states. The bill was then passed by 29 yeas to 24 nays.1

The Senate bill went to the House, and on March 3, 1847, was taken up in committee of the whole. Wilmot moved to amend by adding the proviso, and the motion prevailed by a majority of ten; but when the vote was taken by yeas and nays, he found that his majority had slipped away, and there

1 Cong. Globe, 29 Cong., 2 Sess., 325-556, passim, and p 334.

were only 97 yeas to 107 nays. The members from the slave states, with the exception of J. W. Houston, a Whig from Delaware, voted solidly in the negative; and the remainder of the nays were cast by twenty-three Democrats from free states. The bill finally passed the House, without the proviso, by 115 to 81.1

The debate in the two houses was able but ominous. It showed clearly in all their mischievous effectiveness the influences that were making for sectionalization and threatening to dissolve the Union. The subterranean currents of political activity became manifest, and gave evidence of the intense factional and sectional animosity engendered by the shelving of Van Buren, the annexation of Texas, the Oregon compromise, the Walker tariff, and the re-establishment of the independent treasury-to which was now added the fierce hostility between North and South aroused by the agitation of the slavery question.

One feature of the discussion was a searching review of the causes of the war. Niles of Connecticut, a Democrat, agreed with the president's assertion that it was begun by Mexico, and declared that "the removal of our troops to the Rio Grande was no more an act of war than the removal to Corpus Christi." Stephens of Georgia, a Whig, claimed

1 Cong. Globe, 29 Cong., 2 Sess., 573; see analysis of the vote in Niles' Register, LXXII., 18 (Niles' summary, however, needs some correction).

that Polk himself was responsible for its initiation, and that it was " a war of his own making and in violation of the Constitution of the country.'' Harmanson of Louisiana, a Democrat, called attention to the obvious fact that, if congressmen were right in the charge that it was "a President's War," Congress could not escape its own share in the responsibility; and he asserted that, if "the marching to the Rio Grande provoked the war,'' then that body was "accessory to the act." 1

The most important question raised was that of the proviso itself. Northern men frankly avowed that they would not allow more slave states to enter the Union; and their refusal to apply to any future acquisitions the line of the Missouri Compromise foreshadowed the refusal in 1861 to allow the dissolution of the bond which held the already sectionalized parts of the country together. Speaking in support of his amendment, Berrien condemned the project of acquiring New Mexico and California; and he appealed first to senators from the South to oppose any accession of territory, because it was certain that in none could their domestic institutions be secured, and then to all the senators to do the same in order to "exclude from the national councils this direful question." 2 The warning to the South was emphasized by Calhoun, who said that if that section were assured of the exclusion of

1 Cong. Globe, 29 Cong., 2 Sess., 530, App , 352, 358.

2 Ibid., 330.

slavery from the territory to be acquired it might be expected to oppose the prosecution of the war.1 Corwin denounced, in words that have become familiar to almost every American school-boy, the cry of the expansionists for "room," and repeated from the anti-slavery stand-point the warning to the South of Berrien and Calhoun. "If I were a Mexican," said he,” I would tell you, 'Have you not room in your own country to bury your dead men? If you come into mine we will greet you with bloody hands and welcome you to hospitable graves."' 2 The Democrat Rathbun of New York, the Whig Upham of Vermont, and others protested against any territorial extension because of the political advantage which the Federal ratio in the House gave the South. Niles of Connecticut regretted to see leading senators exerting their eloquence and ability to put their country in the wrong concerning a war which he believed to be justified; but as to slavery he would make no compromise further than to bear with it where it was already established. The Democrat Wood of New York, along with other supporters of the proviso, repudiated the charge of abolitionism, but asserted that the anti-slavery agitation was of the people and not merely of the politicians. Giddings of Ohio favored the proviso primarily because of his objection to slavery itself. 3

1 Cong. Globe, 29 Cong., 2 Sess., App., 326.

2 Ibid., App., 227 (February 11, 1847.) 

3 Ibid., 529-533, 546-548, App., 177-180, 342-345, 403-406.

To all this it was replied that slavery was recognized and sanctioned both by the Constitution and by the Bible, and the right of the South to an equitable share in whatever the expenditure of its own blood and treasure had helped to win was strenuously upheld.1

However it originated, the Wilmot Proviso appealed to deep-seated convictions and proved a great stumbling-block to both the existing national parties. In the conventions of 1848 the Democrats refused to condemn and the Whigs to approve it. Nevertheless, it was a formulation-though not a complete one-of the essential issue over which was to take place the great struggle of American history. Out of the effort of Democrats and Whigs to subordinate this issue grew at length the Republican party, which definitely accepted the principle of the proviso, but which by so doing deliberately made itself the party of the free states alone.2 It might, however, well be questioned whether the hesitation of the two national parties did not ultimately save the Union. Before 1850 the mutual anger and disgust of the North and South had only reached the point where both were possibly willing to separate in peace; but from that time forward the exasperation grew till there was little chance of separation without a fight.

1 Cong, Globe, 29 Cong., 2 Sess., 360-363, 383-386, App., 406-409.

2 Cf. Smith, Parties and Slavery (Am. Nation, XVIII.), chaps. iii., xii.

The proviso served to make plain the irreconcilable difference between the ideals and interests of the North and those of the South. It solidified the South in defence of its own, and almost solidified the North in opposition. The sectionalizing process now passed into its final stage, and in the public and private utterances of thoughtful men began to recur, with ever-increasing frequency, the forecast of disunion. The expansionist proclivities of the American people were by no means overcome-indeed, it is doubtful if they were seriously checked-by the fiery denunciation of the war. This was more a matter of political tactics than of obedience to the popular will---the natural criticism for which the policy of the administration furnished occasion to its enemies; 1 but the question as to whether the northern industrial and social system or the southern should prevail in the acquired territory went more directly home to all. As soon as the issue raised by the Wilmot Proviso was fairly before the people, the legislatures of the free states, and even of Delaware, began to pass resolutions in favor of the measure, and before the wave had passed ten of them had so expressed themselves. 2 It was evidently a popular movement, which the leaders would not long be able to resist. Polk's private jeremiads over the disorganization of the Democracy, the treachery of those who claimed to be supporters of his administration, and the wickedness of injecting

1 Cf. Von Holst, United States, Ill , 304.

2 Ibid., 307.

the slavery question into governmental politics were vain.1 Old issues were rapidly losing effectiveness as the basis of party division and were becoming absorbed in the new ; and of these, in tum, slavery soon overshadowed all the rest. The progress of sectionalization was seriously threatening the bonds of the Union.

1 See his MS, Diary, e.g., January 14, 19, 1847.

Source:  Garrison, George Pierce, Westward Extension. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 17, 254-268. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.

Chapter: “Mexican War. -Wilmot Proviso,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

In the haste of the moment Jacob Brinkerhoff, a Democratic member from Ohio, afterward a member of the Republican party, a jurist of capacity and high character, drew up an, amendment to the bill, which has become famous in the history of the times now passing in review. It provided that, " as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the Republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of any treaty to be negotiated between them, and to the use by the executive, of the moneys herein appropriated, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall be first duly convicted."

To secure the floor for such an amendment, and to give it as fair a chance as possible of success, he sought the aid of a member of the Democratic party who stood well with the South, and who yet was friendly to the principle embodied in the amendment he had prepared. David Wilmot of Pennsylvania answered that description. A Northern Democrat, he had commended himself to Southern favor by voting for the tariff of 1846. The result proved the wisdom of the strategy. Gaining the floor, Mr. Wilmot accompanied his amendment with an earnest speech. To the manifest purpose of the administration to acquire territory he had no objection, providing it could be kept free from slavery. A vote of eighty-three to sixty-four in favor of his amendment greatly cheered him and his Northern friends. A motion, by Mr. Tibbatts of Kentucky, that the bill lie on the table, made for the purpose of defeating the proviso, was lost by fourteen majority, all the Northern Whigs but Robert C. Schenck of Ohio, and all the Northern Democrats but John Pettit of Indiana, and Stephen A. Douglas and John A. McClernand of Illinois, voting against it. The bill was then passed by a vote of eighty-seven to sixty-four.

It was taken up in the Senate on the last day of the session, which was to close at noon, and a motion was made to strike out the proviso. John Davis of Massachusetts took the floor, and, he declining to yield it, the bill and proviso were lost. Mr. Davis was much censured at the time for not permitting a vote to be taken. But, whatever were his motives, it is probable that a vote could not have been reached on the motion to strike out the proviso; and, if it had been, it would have unquestionably prevailed, as there was a majority of slaveholders in that body, and the exigencies of the system would not have allowed them to see the purpose of the war thus defeated. It has indeed been since affirmed by Mr. Brinkerhoff that there was “a well-ascertained and unanimous determination on the part of the Democratic senators of the free States to stand by the proviso, and that those of Delaware and Maryland would have voted with them." But surely Mr. Brinkerhoff must have been mistaken. It is barely possible that Democratic senators from the free States would have voted for that measure, but their previous and subsequent conduct does not justify the belief that they would have done so. Mr. Pearce of Maryland and the two Delaware senators are not living to speak for themselves, but the subsequent course of Mr. Pearce and John M. Clayton gave no assurance that they would have voted for the proviso had it come to a vote. The probability is strong that they would have voted against it, and Reverdy Johnson, in a letter written in April, 1873, states in the most unequivocal language that he should not have voted for.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 16-17.

Chapter: “Treaty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo. -- Acquisition of Territory. --Continuation of the Slavery Struggle,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

On the assembling of Congress, in December, 1846, the President, in his Annual Message, reaffirmed his previous' declaration, that Mexico had inaugurated hostilities, and that "American blood had been spilled on American soil." The language of Benton, in his "Thirty Years' View," affirming that “History is bound to pronounce her judgment upon these assumptions, and to say that they are unfounded," does not express the whole truth. They were unequivocally and historically false.

A bill appropriating three millions of dollars for the purpose of negotiations was introduced into the House. In the debate following Mr. Wilmot defined and defended his position. Alluding to the adoption of the proviso by a decisive majority; he expressed the opinion, which the facts by no means warranted, that “the entire South were even then willing to acquiesce." He said the friends of the administration -- of whom he was one -- did not then charge upon him and those who voted with him the defeat of the Two-Million Bill by the introduction of the proviso. He admitted that " the South resisted it manfully, boldly resisted it; but," he added, "it was passed, and there was no cry that the Union was to be severed." Disclaiming all sympathy for, or affiliation with, Abolitionists, Mr. Wilmot said: “I stand by every compromise of the Constitution. I was in favor of the annexation of Texas. The Democracy of the North was for it to a man, and is fighting the war cheerfully, not reluctantly, for Texas and the South." The declarations of the leaders and presses of the administration and the movements of the armies pointed, he said, to the acquisition of New Mexico and California; and he expressed the hope that the President would firmly adhere to his purpose. He desired fresh territory, but it must be preserved from the aggressions of slavery; and for that he contended. “When, in God's name," he asked, "will it be the time for the North to speak out, if not now? If the war is not for slavery, then I do not embarrass the administration with my amendment. If it is for slavery, I am deceived in its object."

Of course Mr. Wilmot was deceived. His declarations and his prompt disclaimer of all sympathy and affiliation with abolition revealed that fact, as also his want of acquaintance with slavery and the designs of the Slave Power. His ignorance, however, was speedily dispelled in the path on which he had so bravely entered; and his subsequent career showed that in the new school he had entered he became thoroughly, rapidly proficient. But at that time he evidently failed to comprehend the real facts of the case, or the true philosophy of those facts. The seeming acquiescence of the South in the vote on his proviso resulted not so much from a disposition to abide by it as from a settled purpose to reverse it as soon as possible, and from the conviction that such reversal could be obtained. He soon learned, however, the strength and tenacity of the Southern purpose to guard with sleepless vigilance the system of slavery, and to keep it from all possible or conceivable danger; but he never failed to render good service in the struggle on which he then entered.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 18-19.


WILSON, Henry, 1812-1875, abolitionist leader, statesman, U.S. Senator and Vice President of the U.S.  Massachusetts state senator.  Member, Free Soil Party.  Founder of the Republican Party.  Strong opponent of slavery.  Became abolitionist in 1830s.  Opposed annexation of Texas as a slave state.  Bought and edited Boston Republican newspaper, which represented the anti-slavery Free Soil Party.  Called for the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1815.  Introduced bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia and the granting of freedom to slaves who joined the Union Army.  Supported full political and civil rights to emancipated slaves.  Voted for Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery.   Wilson wrote a three-volume history on the abolition and anti-slavery movement entitled, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America.  Much of the material was based on his personal participation and eyewitness accounts.

See also Massachusetts, Opposition to Annexation of Texas as a Territory and as a Slave State

(Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vols. 1-3.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872; Appletons’, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 548-550; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 322; Congressional Globe)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WILSON, Henry, statesman, b. in Farmington, N. H., 16 Feb., 1812; d. in Washington, D. C., 22 Nov., 1875. He was the son of a farm-laborer, whose ancestors were from the north of Ireland, and at the age of ten was apprenticed to a farmer till the age of twenty-one. During those eleven years of service he received not more than twelve months' schooling altogether, but read more than a thousand volumes. When his apprenticeship terminated in December, 1833, he set out from Farmington on foot in search of work, which he found at Natick, Mass., in the house of a shoemaker. On attaining his majority he had his name, which was originally Jeremiah Jones Colbaith, changed by legislative enactment to the simpler one of Henry Wilson. He learned the trade of his employer and followed it for two years, earning enough money to return to New Hampshire and study in the academies at Stafford, Wolfborough, and Concord. At the same time he made his appearance in public life as an ardent Abolitionist during the attempts that were made in 1835 to stop the discussion of the slavery question by violent means. The person to whom he had intrusted his savings became insolvent, and in 1838, after a visit to Washington, where his repugnance to slavery was intensified by the observation of its conditions, he was compelled to relinquish his studios and resume shoemaking at Natick. In 1840 he appeared in the political canvass as a supporter of William Henry Harrison, addressing more than sixty Whig meetings, in which he was introduced as the “Natick cobbler.” In that year and the next he was elected to the Massachusetts house of representitives, and then after a year's intermission served three annual terms in the state senate.

He was active in organizing in 1845 a convention in Massachusetts to oppose the admission of Texas into the Union as a slave state, and was made, with John Greenleaf Whittier, the bearer of a petition to congress against the proposed annexation, which was signed by many thousands of Massachusetts people. In the following year he presented in the legislature a resolution condemnatory of slavery, supporting it with a comprehensive and vigorous speech. In 1848 he went as a delegate to the Whig national convention in Philadelphia, and on the rejection of anti-slavery resolutions spoke in protest and withdrew. On his return he defended his action before his constituents, and soon afterward bought the Boston “Republican” newspaper, which he edited for two years, making it the leading organ of the Free-soil party. He was chairman of the Free-soil state committee in 1849-'52. In 1850 he returned to the state senate, and in the two following years he was elected president of that body. He presided over the Free-soil national convention at Pittsburg in 1852, and in the ensuing canvass acted as chairman of the national committee of the party. As chairman of the state committee he had arranged a coalition with the Democrats by which George S. Boutwell was elected governor in 1851 and Charles Sumner and Robert Rantoul were sent to the U. S. senate. He was a candidate for congress in 1852, and failed of election by only ninety-three votes, although in his district the majority against the Free-soilers was more than 7,500. In 1853 he was a member of the State constitutional convention and proposed a provision to admit colored men into the militia organization. In the same year he was defeated as the Free-soil candidate for governor. He acted with the American party in 1855, with the aid of which he was chosen to succeed Edward Everett in the U. S. senate. He was a delegate to the American national convention in Philadelphia in that year, but, when it adopted a platform that countenanced slavery, he and other Abolitionists withdrew. He had delivered a speech in advocacy of the repeal of the fugitive-slave law and the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia shortly after taking his seat in the senate in February, 1855. On the disruption of the American organization through the secession of himself and his friends, he took an active part in the formation of the Republican party, with the programme of opposition to the extension of slavery. On 23 May, 1856, the morning after his colleague in the senate, Charles Sumner, was assaulted by Preston S. Brooks, Mr. Wilson denounced the act as “brutal, murderous, and cowardly.” For this language he was challenged to a duel by Brooks; but he declined on the ground that the practice of duelling was barbarous and unlawful, at the same time announcing that he believed in the right of self-defence.

During the next four years he took part in all the important debates in the senate, delivering elaborate speeches on the admission of Kansas, the treasury-note bill, the expenditures of the government, the Pacific railroad project, and many other topics. His speeches bore the impress of practical, clear-sighted statesman ship, and if the grace of oratory and polished diction was wanting, they always commanded attention and respect. The congressional records during his long term of service in the senate show that he was one of the most industrious and efficient members of that body, and that his name stands connected with nearly all the important acts and resolves. Strong in his convictions, he was fearless in their expression, but he was scrupulously careful in his statements, and the facts he adduced were never successfully disputed. In March, 1859, he made a notable reply to James H. Hammond, of South Carolina, in defence of free labor, which was printed and widely circulated through the northern states. He had been continued in the senate for a full term by an almost unanimous vote of the Massachusetts legislature in the preceding January. In March, 1861, he was made chairman of the committee on military affairs, of which he had been a member during the preceding four years. He induced congress to authorize the enlistment of 500,000 volunteers at the beginning of hostilities between the states, and during the entire period of the war he remained at the head of the committee, and devised and carried measures of the first importance in regard to the organization of the army and the raising and equipment of troops, as well as attending to the many details that came before the committee. He had been connected with the state militia as major, colonel, and brigadier-general from 1840 till 1851, and in 1861 he raised the 22d regiment of Massachusetts volunteers, and marched to the field as its colonel, serving there as an aide to Gen. George B. McClellan till the reassembling of congress.

During the session of 1861-'2 he introduced the laws that abolished slavery in the District of Columbia, put an end to the “black code,” allowed the enrolment of blacks in the militia, and granted freedom to slaves who entered the service of the United States and to their families. During the civil war he made many patriotic speeches before popular assemblages. He took a prominent part in the legislation for the reduction of the army after the war and for the reconstruction of the southern state governments, advocating the policy of granting full political and civil rights to the emancipated slaves, joined with measures of conciliation toward the people who had lately borne arms against the United States government. He was continued as senator for the term that ended in March, 1871, and near its close was re-elected for six years more. He was nominated for the office of vice-president of the United States in June, 1872, on the ticket with Ulysses S. Grant, and was elected in the following November, receiving 286 out of 354 electoral votes. On 3 March, 1873, he resigned his place on the floor of the senate, of which he had been a member for eighteen years, in order to enter on his functions as president of that body. The same year he was stricken with paralysis, and continued infirm till his death, which was caused by apoplexy.

It is but just to say of Henry Wilson that with exceptional opportunities which a less honest statesman might have found for enriching himself at the government's expense, or of taking advantage of his knowledge of public affairs and the tendency of legislation upon matters of finance and business, he died at his post of duty, as he had lived, rich only in his integrity and self-respect. Among his many published speeches may be mentioned “Personalities and Aggressions of Mr. Butler” (1856); “Defence of the Republican Party” (1856); “Are Workingmen Slaves?” (1858); “The Pacific Railroad” (1859); and “The Death of Slavery is the Life of the Nation” (1864). He was the author of a volume entitled “History of the Anti-Slavery Measures of the Thirty-seventh and Thirty-eighth United States Congresses,” in which he relates the progress of the bills relating to slavery and cites the speeches of their friends and opponents (Boston, 1865); of a history of legislation on the army during the civil war, with the title of “Military Measures of the United States Congress” (1866); of a small volume called “Testimonies of American Statesmen and Jurists to the Truths of Christianity,” being an address that he gave before the Young men's Christian association at Natick (1867); of a “History of the Reconstruction Measures of the Thirty-ninth and Fortieth Congresses, 1865-'8” (1868); of a series of articles on Edwin M. Stanton that were reprinted from a magazine, with those of Jeremiah S. Black, with the title of “A Contribution to History” (Easton, Pa., 1868); of a published oration on “The Republican and Democratic Parties” (Boston, 1868); and of a great work bearing the title of “History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America,” on which he labored indefatigably during his last illness, yet was not quite able to complete (3 vols., Boston , 1872-'5). See his “Life and Public Services,” which was written by his friend, Thomas Russell, and Rev. Elias Nason, who was his pastor for many years (1872). Congress directed to be printed a volume of “Obituary Addresses,” that were delivered in both houses, on 21 Jan., 1876 (Washington, 1876). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI. pp. 548-550.

Chapter: “Conclusion,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1878.

The proposed limits of this volume have been reached without taking up all the topics embraced within its original plan. It is to be hoped, however, that sufficient has been said to afford a measurably adequate idea of the progress of events developed by the " irrepressible conflict," and which have led to the present posture of affairs, — results already attained, and those the future will disclose as a natural consequence of the great struggle. Slavery has been traced from its small beginnings to its overshadowing greatness, — from the few seeds planted at Jamestown in 1620 to its woeful harvest covering the land, — from being a system of labor, in bad repute and dying out, or existing by sufferance when the Constitution was framed, to its becoming an "institution," dominating the government, and exerting a commanding if not a controlling influence in society, in the church, and in the commercial world. It has been shown, too, that in the plenitude of its power, impatient of the least restraint or check, anxious to guard against apprehended dangers arising from its local, restricted, and questionable character, it demanded new guaranties, and claimed that it should be no longer sectional but national, not only wandering everywhere at will, but everywhere protected by the aegis of the Constitution, and maintained by the arm of Federal authority. Such guaranties being too humiliating and wicked for any but the most craven to submit to, this Power appealed to arms, determined to rend what it could not rule, and break what it could not control with an unquestioned supremacy. In the war thus inaugurated slavery went down, not, however, for moral but military reasons, not because it was wrong but because it was unsafe, and because it could not continue and the Union endure. The war closed, the work of reconstruction began, the recusant States were brought back, and the flag again waves, if not over loyal hearts, at least as the symbol of restored nationality and authority, where it had been trailed in the dust, and treated with the greatest indignity and hate.

Claiming, as its title imports, only or mainly to give some account of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, this work has proposed nothing like a full and connected military or political history of the war, and of the process of re construction. Its purpose has been rather to seize upon those portions of such history, perhaps not always with the nicest discrimination, which would shed the clearest light upon the subject it was written to examine, elucidate, and improve, and yield the most profitable instruction.

The topics omitted for lack of space are subsidiary, however, and of less real importance than those for which room has been found. Necessary, perhaps, to the completeness of historic detail, they would be only the exponents of principles already enunciated and illustrated in other connections, examples of general facts already recognized and recorded, the carrying out of the new policy entered upon and made possible only by the giving up by Southern members of their seats in Congress, and their mad relinquishment of the power their occupation had given them. Henceforward, with human rights instead of human chattelhood the goal and guide, freedom instead of slavery the polestar of government, members, in their debates and in the details of legislation, whether effected or only attempted, could but exhibit a similarity of argument and appeal. On measures of the same general character and purpose friends and foes could hardly do otherwise than repeat themselves. Without, therefore, the excitement of pending issues, with the uncertainty and anxiety as to what the result would be, there is less of loss, now that excitement has passed and the results are known, in not having the precise details before the mind. Besides, it is almost among the marvels of history how easily some of the most radical legislation of those days was effected, — how noiselessly and almost without division slave-laws were revoked, the very mention of whose repeal before the war would have roused the nation, both North and South, to fierce excitement, been the signal of the wildest clamor, the most frantic expostulations, and the most terrible and defiant threats. One indeed could but stand amazed at the change, be silent with wonder, and almost question his own identity, or that of others, as he saw law after law repealed almost without remonstrance, and that mountain of unrighteous legislation, the crystallized product of the cruelty and fiendish ingenuity of generations, melting away, like icebergs in a summer sea and under the fervors of a tropical sun, in the presence of an aroused indignation, that had hitherto been trammelled by compromise and the sense of constitutional obligations, and suppressed by fear of offending Southern brethren and sacrificing Southern support, but now prepared to indicate its right to be heard, and to enforce the claims of justice and a common humanity.

Perhaps, however, the marvel will not appear so great, at least to those who comprehend the philosophy or rationale of the change. Through the secession of the States from the Union, and of their members from Congress, resulted two or three facts whose importance arid potency can hardly be overestimated. By it they not only removed shackles from Northern limbs, but they put shackles on their own, or they did that which was tantamount thereto. By leaving their places in Congress they disarmed themselves of the only weapons they had ever used with much effect, they abandoned the only tenable position from which they could defend their cherished system or assail its enemies. Everything else was against it, — argument, sentiment, reason, conscience, the laws of nature and the law of God, the claims of justice and the pleadings of humanity, the teachings of philosophy and the sweet voices of poetry, — all, all, as it could not well be otherwise, were arrayed against the "sum of all villanies." But their position in the government, with the three-fifths representation of their slaves, gave them political power, and long practice gave them great astuteness and adroitness in its use, while Northern selfishness, venality, lack of convictions, and what has been justly termed "careless citizenship," afforded a wide and fruitful field for their peculiar strategy. In their citizen ship were the hidings of the slaveholders' power, and by that sign alone they conquered. Had they been content therewith, nothing appears why this might not have continued for years, perhaps generations. For the fact, already stated, may be here repeated, that Mr. Lincoln, when elected to the Presidency, was in a minority of a million, and that on a platform that simply insisted on the non-extension of slavery, while it not only permitted but guaranteed its continuance where existing. And this, it is to be remembered, notwithstanding the light shed by the antislavery agitation of a generation and the faithful warnings thundered in the nation's ear from the Abolition pulpits and platforms of those days of earnest reasoning and appeal; aided, too, in their work of argument and alarm by the continued aggressions of the Slave Power, from the annexation of Texas to the Lecompton infamy, from the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act to the Dred Scott decision. Not ignoring the Divine agency and the possibilities within reach of the Divine arm, humanly speaking, it may lie claimed there did not appear to man's finite vision during the summer and autumn of 1860 any reason for believing that the Slave Power could be dethroned, or dislodged from its seemingly impregnable position by any forces then at command or in view. The composition and doings of the Peace Congress; the Crittenden Compromise, with the narrow escape from its adoption, designed to eternize slavery and place it beyond the reach of repeal, however earnestly and largely the people might desire it; the action and tone of Congress during the closing months of Mr. Buchanan's administration, — all lead to the conclusion that had the Slave Power been content, it might have still remained in practical possession of the government.

But the peace the North so earnestly desired and eagerly sought was not to be the reward of such surrender and betrayal, nor were the slaveholders to be placated even by concessions so extreme. On a large scale and in view of the nations was to be exhibited another example of the haughty spirit that goes before a fall, of that judicial blindness that precedes destruction. By the Divine wisdom, made more resplendent by this dark background of human folly, God revealed anew how the wrath of man could be made to praise him, and how the remainder of wrath he could restrain. By a fatuity that hardly finds a parallel in human history, the slaveholders sacrificed slavery to save it, and in their frantic efforts to defend it against all possible danger, they increased those dangers immeasurably, abandoning, as they did, the only stronghold from which defence was possible. Placing in the hands of their antagonists the same weapons they themselves had hitherto used with so much effect, the rest became inevitable, and only a question of time. Slavery fallen, what was created for or enacted by it would very naturally follow. The tyrant dead, his satellites were allowed to die without regret; the system destroyed, its auxiliaries were allowed to pass away without protest. Laws like the Fugitive Slave Act and those forbidding the instruction of slaves fell naturally and necessarily into disuse and became practically repealed, because there were no longer slaves to be returned to bondage or slaves to be kept in enforced ignorance. There were enactments, too, in the interests of slavery which affected others than slaves, and bore heavily upon freemen themselves. Among them were the laws that confined the militia of the slaveholding States to white persons and authorized the barbarous custom of whipping. There, too, was the system of peonage in New Mexico, allowed to exist not so much as a relic of slavery as by sufferance, because a government committed to the grosser and more barbarous form of chattelhood, and dominated by the Slave Power, could hardly be expected to interfere with this milder system of "modified servitude inherited from Mexico," at least from any regard for the primal rights of man. Beside these, there were military organizations in the slaveholding States, Rebel in spirit and purpose, and composed mainly of men who had belonged to the armies of the Confederacy. Such organizations were justly deemed antagonistic to the Union, and little likely to promote continued peace. Though not so much the creatures of slavery as of treason, — and their menace was rather against the authority of the government than against the freedom of the individual, — like peonage in New Mexico and the other laws above mentioned, they owed their origin to slavery, were pervaded by its spirit and purpose, and could not with safety be allowed to exist. Though a bill early introduced by Mr. Wilson for their disbandment failed, a similar measure, moved as an amendment to an appropriation bill, was subsequently carried with little opposition.

On the same day that the above-named amendment was introduced into the Senate, Mr. Trumbull moved to amend the same appropriation bill by a provision prohibiting "whipping or maiming of the person," and it was carried without debate or division. With little more discussion or dissent an amendment to a bill for the temporary increase of the pay of the officers of the army, striking out the word "white" from the militia laws, was adopted.

When New Mexico became a Territory of the Union, there existed a system of peonage, by which when a Mexican owed a debt the creditor had a right to his labor until the debt was paid. The debtor became a domestic servant and practically a slave until its liquidation. There were about two thousand of this class, principally Indians, in the Territory. But a resolution abolishing the system was introduced by Mr. Wilson, and without much ado it was passed; thereby removing another of the relics of the slave system.

It was also proposed to give account of some attempted legislation, as a history of the times and an index of congressional thought and feeling, evinced by those who were striving to use aright the power for the moment in their hands, and thus secure the fruits of the war, guard against similar at tempts in the future, but especially protect the freedmen and the loyal men of the South, hated and oppressed because they had proved themselves true to the Union. A chapter was proposed giving a somewhat detailed account of attempts, beginning as early as the third day of the first session of the XXXIXth Congress, in December, 1865, to secure amendments of the Constitution to prevent the assumption of "Rebel debts," to define "citizenship," and to fix the "basis of representation." They all failed of enactment, and are mainly valuable as matters of historic record, to show how earnest and prompt were the Republican leaders to meet squarely the issues presented, and to provide, if possible, for the exigencies of the hour. This failure of enactment, with the character of the debates, revealed the uncertain and hesitating steps with which members moved along the untraveled path they were called to tread, and grappled with problems for which no precedents could be found; though the arguments urged and the reasons for action were substantially those employed in subsequent discussions, which resulted in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which were finally adopted, and which are now parts of the Constitution. Another subject, of which some account was to have been given, was the process by which the different border slave States, which, though believing in slavery, had not joined the Rebellion, were induced to accept emancipation and adapt their legislation to the new order of things. Of this it is to be said, however, that while those States had much in common, being affected by influences which were general and national, each had its own autonomy, its local history and struggle. While, therefore, the result attained was substantially the same in all, the processes by which it was reached varied materially, according to the different circumstances and leadership in these separate commonwealths. Much depended upon leadership. Always and everywhere true, at least, in greater or less degree, at this juncture of affairs the measures actually adopted by the many were the result largely, if not entirely, of the views and feelings of the few. When all were in a maze, knowing not what to do or expect, the natural leader's voice was listened for, and, if heard, generally heeded. When all were dazed by the resplendent events in progress, not knowing what the next act in the imposing drama was to be, though prepared for almost anything, it is not strange that men, dis trusting themselves, should have looked to others for counsel and guidance. Everything in confusion, the very foundations of society seemingly sliding from beneath their feet, the very stars in their courses appearing to fight against them, Southern men were willing to accept almost any solution that promised repose, and the salvation of anything from the general wreck around them. The voice of leaders at such a time had special potency, and the policy finally adopted unquestionably depended oftentimes far more on the influences to which these leaders chanced to be exposed than upon any well-considered opinions and purposes of the people themselves. This undoubtedly affords some solution of the fact, that while the three border slave States, Delaware, Maryland, and Kentucky, rejected the Fourteenth Amendment by a vote of three to one, the State of Missouri accepted it by a vote of one hundred and eleven to forty.

The details, therefore, of State action, not by any means uninstructive and devoid of local and special value, cannot be of that general and historic interest which inheres in the great and providential fact that those States were induced to move at all; that, without any great change of sentiment and feeling on the subject of slavery, they should adopt legislation recognizing its destruction, and adapted thereto. That, and not the special methods pursued in the separate States, is the significant and memorable fact. This recognition, however, did not carry with it anything like a hearty adoption of the Republican policy of which it formed a part. Thus a Democratic convention, held in Kentucky in 1866, resolved, "That we recognize the abolition of slavery as an accomplished fact, but earnestly assert that Kentucky has the right to regulate the political status of the negroes within their territory." And even what was called a Union convention, a few months later, entered its protest against negro suffrage, denying that the Thirteenth Amendment gave to Congress the power "to pass any law granting the right of suffrage to persons of African descent." In Maryland, in 1867, the legislature, while resolving that " we regard the abolishment of negro slavery as a fact achieved, to which the peace and quiet of the country require that we should bow in submission," did "most solemnly and earnestly protest against any action by the Congress of the United States to assign the negro a social status or endow him with the elective franchise." It also declared "that the loss of private property occasioned by the emancipation of slaves constitutes a valid claim upon the Federal government for compensation, and that the General Assembly ought to provide for ascertaining the extent of such loss, with a view of pressing the claim at an early day."

It was also proposed to give a somewhat detailed account of the trial of President Johnson on articles of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives, March 2, 1868. The original motion, made by Mr. Ashley of Ohio, January 7, 1867, charging him with "high crimes and misdemeanors" specified that "he has corruptly used the appointing power; that he has corruptly used the pardoning power; that he has corruptly used the veto; that he has corruptly disposed of public property of the United States; that he has corruptly interfered in elections, and committed acts, and conspired with others to commit acts, which, in contemplation of the Constitution, are high crimes and misdemeanors." The articles were read to the Senate sitting as Court of Impeachment, March 4, 1868. The trial proceeded till the 16th of May, when a vote was taken, thirty-five voting Guilty, and nineteen. Not Guilty; and judgment of acquittal was entered. Although a somewhat striking episode, and, for the time being, exciting a widespread interest, this trial cannot be regarded as having any very direct bearing on the history of slavery. That the President's course was utterly indefensible, that he proved himself false to his promises and loudly promulgated opinions as well as to the party which elected him, besides aggravating and greatly increasing the difficulties of reconstruction, is matter of record, and has been referred to in previous chapters of this volume. Himself a product of slavery, which was itself a " gigantic lie," how could he be true to a party or cause based on the grand verities enunciated in the Republican platform, and made the dominating forces of its history? And yet the trial itself was of local and temporary interest and importance, and hardly deserves a very large space or mention in a general history of the Slave Power.

Another chapter was to have been devoted to the presidential election of 1868. But, though occupying, no doubt, a commanding position in the work of reconstruction, — an important link in the chain of events now under review, its main significance and the chief contribution it affords for history appear in the exceedingly disloyal attitude in which it presents the Democratic party. Without even an attempt to conceal its purpose by words, — words that cost and often mean so little, and are indeed so often used by men to "disguise their thoughts" — it proclaimed not only its bitter hostility to the defenders of their country, but its too manifest sympathy with those who would destroy it. Both in the platform adopted and in the utterances of its candidates little short of the baldest treason was presented, not in mealy words, but in those most objurgatory and defiant. In its platform and in its arraignment of the Republican party, it spoke of " the unparalleled oppression and tyranny which have marked its career,” having subjected "ten States to military despotism and negro supremacy," and of its substituting "secret star-chamber inquisitions for constitutional tribunals"; pronounced "the reconstruction acts (so called) of Congress, as such, as usurpations, and unconstitutional, revolutionary, and void"; and demanded "amnesty for all past political offences, and the regulation of the elective franchise in these States by their citizens." But the most significant event of the canvass was the letter of Frank P. Blair, the Democratic candidate for Vice-President. On the 30th of June he wrote what became the famous "Brodhead letter," in which he indulged in the most violent and inflammatory language and recommendations. Beside accusing the Republican party of the most heinous political offences, and suggesting the most violent remedies, he said unequivocally: "There is but one way to restore the government and the Constitution, and that is for the President elect to declare these acts null and void, compel the army to undo its usurpations at the South, disperse the carpet-bag State governments, and elect Senators and Representatives." For this frank avowal of his treasonable and revolutionary opinions and purposes he was honored with a unanimous vote of the convention on the first ballot for the office of Vice-President, while it required twenty-three ballotings to secure the nomination of Horatio Seymour for the Presidency on the same electoral ticket; so well did the former represent the principles and purposes of the Democratic party. The Republican party simply reaffirmed the principles already enunciated in its platforms, proclaimed its inflexible purpose to maintain them in their entirety, and placed in nomination the distinguished soldier that had led the national forces to victory, with Schuyler Colfax for Vice-President. It triumphed by decisive majorities at the polls, and revealed the welcome fact that the people had not yet forgotten the lessons of the war, and were not quite ready to restore the defenders of the "lost cause” to seats they had so traitorously vacated for the destruction of the government. With this the record must close, though the conflict still rages, and the final issue remains in doubt. With no formal attempt to deduce the lessons this history was written to inculcate, — excepting a simple reference to what has been noted, the dangers of all compromises of moral principles, the prolific and pestiferous nature of national as well as individual sinning, the deteriorating and depressing influence of unrighteous laws on the morality of a people and the grave perils in a republic of "careless citizenship" and the presence of an unfaithful Church, which, instead of faithful testimony borne against wrong-doing, consents thereto and throws around it the sanctions of religion, — it only remains to notice briefly the present posture of affairs and the outlook disclosed thereby. That there have been great and marvellous changes none deny. The abolishment of slavery, the entire repeal or abrogation of the infamous slave-codes, the summary and sudden transformation of four million chattels personal into freemen and enfranchised citizens, with everything that legislation and constitutional amendments can do to maintain their freedom and protect them in its enjoyment, do certainly constitute great and memorable achievements that find few parallels in human history. All admit the greatness of the change, but men differ as to its extent. Nor are these differences mere matters of opinion, or of abstract theories simply, inconsequential and harmless, like views that neither demand nor lead to corresponding action. On the contrary, they enter largely into the purposes and policies of the hour. Thus large numbers, including the whole Democratic party, contend that emancipation and the constitutional amendments, even if accepted as accomplished facts, justify no further infringement on State prerogatives, and that the freed men, still amenable to State authority, must be remanded to the State governments alone for protection. Even so able and astute a statesman as Mr. Bingham, the reputed author of the Fourteenth Amendment, opposed the Civil Rights bill because, he said, in times of peace "justice is to be administered under the Constitution, according to the Constitution, and within the limitation of the Constitution."

The large majority of the Republicans, however, instructed by the sad history of Mr. Johnson's administration, deemed it both unsafe and unpardonable thus to remand the freedmen for protection to those whose tender mercies are cruel. In the pledge of the Proclamation of Emancipation to "maintain" the freedom it proclaimed they see something more than a word. Regarding it a solemn pledge to be fulfilled, they recognize the obligation to provide appropriate legislation therefor, though, as the debates have disclosed, not altogether clear that by so doing they have not transcended limits prescribed by both the letter and spirit of the Constitution. And it still remains an open question, as yet un settled by any general agreement, where State sovereignty ends and the Federal prerogative begins. Though, as Mr. Frelinghuysen said, in his opening speech on the Civil Rights bill, "the whole struggle in field and forum is between national sovereignty and State sovereignty, a struggle between United States citizenship and State citizenship, and the superiority of allegiance due to each, “opinions are as divergent as ever on the answer to be given. It still remains a question not yet answered by those with whom alone rests the authority, whether this is a nation of people or a mere federation of States.

But more serious than constitutional difficulties remain. For, granting that all constitutional differences had been composed, that all questions of government had been answered to mutual satisfaction, and that everything that law, organic or other, can do had been done, there remains the far more serious difficulty of constituency. As never before, the question of man's ability to govern himself stares the nation in the face, and arrests attention by its sudden and startling distinctness. The numbers are increasing who cannot repress their doubts nor silence their misgivings as they contemplate the new dangers that loom up not only in the distant, but in the more immediate future. Manhood suffrage, with all that is involved therein, the figures of the census-tables, and their startling revelations of growing illiteracy, especially in the late slaveholding States, where the large per cent of voters can neither read nor write the ballots they cast, are facts to excite the gravest apprehensions. The fact, too, that the South, though defeated, with "sullen intensity and relentless purpose" still bemoans and defends the "lost cause"; though accepting the destruction of slavery, still believes it to be the proper condition of an inferior race, and the corner-stone of the most desirable civilization; though accepting negro enfranchisement because imposed by a superior force, still contends that this is a white man's government, in which the freedmen have no legitimate part, and from which they shall be excluded, even if violence and fraud be needful therefor, may well excite alarm in the most sanguine and hopeful. Conjoined with these is that alarming but correlated fact — the pregnant fault and the vulnerable heel of American politics — that good men can stand aloof from active participation in the work of the government, justify themselves in so doing, and lose little credit thereby. These facts and considerations invest with growing interest the subject, multiply questionings, and greatly deepen the solicitude of the thoughtful as they seek to forecast events, and, peering wistfully into the future, look with too little success for gleams of light or harbingers of better days.

Washington inculcated in his Farewell Address that intelligence and morality are "indispensable supports" of free institutions, and that all morality that is not the outgrowth of religious principle is of questionable worth. Nor is this the voice of the Father of his Country only. It is the generally accepted axiom of those who treat of republican institutions. And yet among the teachings of the census-tables are found such items as these. In the Southern States, of the white children alone sixty-one per cent are never seen at school; of the colored children "eighty-eight per cent are habitually absent." "Of every one hundred colored children in North Carolina ninety-one never enter a school. In Georgia ninety-five per cent receive no instruction. In Mississippi the per cent is ninety-six." "Ten years," says the United States Commissioner of Education, "without schools for children will insure an adult generation of ignorant citizens, who in losing the knowledge of will have lost the desire for letters." With truth he added: "Were an invading hostile army to threaten our frontiers the whole people would rise in arms to repel them; but these tables show the mustering of the hosts of a deadlier foe, a more relentless enemy, already within our borders and by our very firesides; a great army of ignorance growing ever stronger, denser, and more invincible."

The demon of slavery has indeed been exorcised and cast out of the body politic, but other evil spirits remain to torment, if not destroy. The same elements of character in the dominant race that not only rendered slavery endurable, but demanded it and made its protection, support, and conservation the condition precedent of all affiliation in church or state, still remain to be provided for, guarded against, or eliminated, in our efforts to maintain our free form of government. Perhaps, indeed, legislation has done its best or utmost, and all that now remains, or can be done, is to bring up the popular sentiment and character to its standard. Can it be done?

In January, 1871, the author appealed, through the pages of the "Atlantic Monthly," to the members of the Republican party to take a " new departure " and incorporate philanthropic and patriotic with political action; in other words, to engage individually and socially, and outside of party organization, in missionary work to prepare those made free to use intelligently and wisely the power their enfranchisement has given them. "The two great necessities," he said, "of the country at the present time are unification and education." In behalf of the former he said: "To make the people one in spirit and purpose, to remove everything calculated to engender and perpetuate strife or promote sectional animosities and interests, should be regarded, during the generation now entered upon, as the special work of the bravest philanthropy and of the purest and most enlarged statesmanship," To the latter, after urging the usual considerations in support of its essential necessity to the maintenance of free institutions, and considering some of the serious difficulties in the way of its effective pro motion, he invited the earnest and thoughtful attention of his countrymen. "I do not assume the office of instructor," he said, "nor do I propose to indicate what is to be done, or how this grave exigency is to be met. I only bespeak here a careful study of this great social and national problem, thus suddenly forced upon the Republic. Fully believing that the nation has never witnessed an hour, not even in the darkest night of the Rebellion, when there were presented more pressing claims for special effort, or when there were demanded of the patriotic, philanthropic, and pious men of thought, more time, effort, and personal sacrifice, I present the matter as second to no question now before the country."

But if there was in 1871 foundation for such solicitude and alarm, how much greater the occasion now. Then the governments in the reconstructed States were mainly, if not entirely, in the hands of men loyal not only to their country, but to the principles and policy of the Republican party. Not wholly without mistakes or unworthy members in their administrations, the tendency was upward, and the drift was in the right direction. The freedmen were cared for, a policy was inaugurated embracing, as already noted, with their active participation in the affairs of government, a preparation, aided largely by Northern philanthropy and Christian beneficence, educational and industrial, for their new and untried position. Inadequate, almost ludicrously so, to the great and manifold exigencies of the situation, except as the beginning and earnest of greater and more systematic efforts, they excited hopes and encouraged expectations for the new-formed commonwealths of the South. But all this is now changed. A reaction has taken place. The old regime is reinstated, and everything, save legal chattelhood, is to be restored. Race distinctions, class legislations, the dogmas that this is a white man's government, that the negro belongs to an inferior race, that capital should control, if it does not own, labor, are now in the ascendant, and caste, if slavery may not be, is to be the "corner-stone" of Southern civilization. At least, this is the avowed purpose. "Labor," says, recently, a governor of one of these reconstructed States, "must be controlled by law. We may hold inviolate every law of the United States, and still so legislate upon our labor system as to retain our old plantation system, or, in lieu of that, a baronial system." Clothe these sentiments, uttered without rebuke or dissent from those he assumes to represent, with power, as they have been by restored Democratic ascendency in most of the Southern States, in several of the Northern, and in the popular branch of Congress, and the wonder ceases that education languishes, that the number of scholars diminishes, that school laws are repealed or rendered useless, and that Northern philanthropy is discouraged. But without some such agencies, whence can come the unification and education required?

The Christian, who traces God's hand in American history, recalls the many Divine interpositions therein recorded, gathers courage from the review, and, though the omens seem unpropitious, finds it hard to despair of the Republic. And yet even he whose trust is the strongest forgets not that God accomplishes his purposes by human instrumentalities, and that no faith, personal or national, is legitimate or of much avail that is not accompanied by corresponding works.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 3.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1878, 725-740.


WILSON, Hiram V., 1803-1864, Ackworth, New Hampsire, abolitionist, cleric, agent of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Ohio.  Helped set up schools and aid Blacks who escaped to Canada.  Founded British-American Manual Labor Institute of the Colored Settlements of Upper Canada.  Delagate to the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1843. 

(Blue, 2005, pp. 80, 82-85; Dumond, 1961, p. 164; Henson, 1858, pp. 167-171; Siebert, 1898, p. 199; Woodson, 1915, p. 25; The Emancipator, February 22, 1837)


WILSON, James, 1742-1798, founding father, signer of the Declaration of Independence, opponent of slavery, member of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Ratifying Convention

(Appletons’, 1888, Vol. XI, p. 550; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 326; Dumond, 1961, pp. 37, 40, 43; Locke, 1901, p. 93; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 23, p. 586)  


WILSON, John Leighton, 1809-1886, Sumter County, South Carolina clergyman, missionary, anti-slavery activist.  Wrote influential pamphlet that caused the British government to keep its naval squadron off the African coast in order to suppress the illegal African slave trade. 

(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 554-555; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 337)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WILSON, John Leighton, missionary, b. in Sumter county, S. C., 25 March, 1809; d. near Mayesville, S. C., 13 July, 1886. He was graduated at Union college in 1829, and at the Columbia (S. C.) theological seminary in 1833, being a member of the first class that was educated in that institution. He was ordained as a missionary the same year, and, after studying Arabic at Andover seminary, sailed in November on a voyage of exploration to western Africa, returning in the following spring. As a result of his investigations, he decided that Cape Palmas was a promising field for missionary work. In May, 1834, he was married, and returned with his wife to Africa before the close of that year. Here they labored until 1841, during which period they organized a church of forty members, educated more than one hundred native youth, and reduced the Grebo language to writing, publishing a grammar and dictionary, and translating the gospels of Matthew and John, together with several small volumes, into the native tongue. In 1842 Mr. and Mrs. Wilson removed to the Gaboon river, 1,200 miles southeast of Cape Palmas, and began a new mission among the Mpongwe people. Here again the language was reduced to writing for the first time, and a grammar, a vocabulary, parts of the Bible, and several small volumes were published. In the spring of 1853, owing to failing health, he and his wife returned to the United States. The following autumn he became secretary of the board of foreign missions of the Presbyterian church, and continued to discharge his duties until the beginning of the civil war, when he returned to his home in the south. On the organization of the Southern Presbyterian church, Dr. Wilson was appointed secretary of foreign missions, and continued to act as such until 1885, when he was made secretary emeritus. For seven years during this period the home mission work was combined with that of foreign missions, he taking charge of both. In 1852 a strong effort was made in the British parliament to withdraw the British squadron from the African coast, under the impression that the foreign slave-trade could not be suppressed. To prove that this view was erroneous, Dr. Wilson wrote a pamphlet, and pointed out what was necessary to make the crusade against the traffic successful. The pamphlet, falling into the hands of Lord Palmerston, was republished in the “United Service Journal,” and also in the parliamentary “Blue Book,” an edition of 10,000 copies being circulated throughout the United Kingdom. Lord Palmerston subsequently informed Dr. Wilson that his protest had silenced all opposition to the squadron's remaining on the coast, and in less than five years the trade itself was brought to an end. Dr. Wilson edited “The Foreign Record” (New York, 1853-'61), which gave an account of the progress of work in the foreign missionary field, and “The Missionary” (Baltimore, 1861-'85). He received the degree of D. D. from Lafayette college in 1854. While in Africa he sent to the Boston society of natural history the first specimen of the gorilla that was sent from there. He contributed to the “Southern Presbyterian Review” and other periodicals. He also published “Western Africa: its History, Condition, and Prospects” (New York, 1857). Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888.


WINCHESTER, James, planter, Speaker of the Maryland State Senate, abolitionist, member and delegate of the Maryland Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and the Relief of Free Negroes, and Others, Unlawfully Held in Bondage, founded 1789. 

(Basker, 2005, p. 224; Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 560-561)


WING, Conway Phelps, 1809-1828, Marietta, Ohio, clergyman, anti-slavery activist. 

(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 563-564)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WING, Conway, Phelps, clergyman, b. near Marietta, Ohio, 12 Feb., 1809. He was graduated at Hamilton college in 1828 and at Auburn theological seminary in 1831, and was ordained and installed pastor of the church at Sodus, Wayne co., N. Y., by the presbytery of Geneva in 1832, remaining there till 1836. He was afterward pastor at Ogden, N. Y., at Monroe, Mich., where he is now pastor emeritus, at Huntsville, Ala., and at Carlisle, Pa. Mr. Wing took an active part in the revivals of 1832-'5, and in the anti-slavery agitation in western New York, and was zealous in his opposition to slavery in Tennessee and Alabama. He received the degree of D. D. from Dickinson college in 1857. He was an adherent to the new-school branch of the Presbyterian church, but an earnest supporter of the reunion in 1869 and 1870, and was a member of the joint committee of reconstruction for the church in the latter year. He has translated from the German “A History of the Christian Church,” by Dr. Charles Hase, with Dr. Charles E. Blumenthal (New York, 1856); and published “History of the Presbyteries of Donegal and Carlisle” (Carlisle, 1876); “History of the First Presbyterian Church of Carlisle” (1877); “History of Cumberland County, Pa.” (1879); and “Historical and Genealogical Register of the Descendants of John Wing, of Sandwich” (New York, 1885; 2d ed., 1888).  Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888.


WINSLOW, Emily A., abolitionist.  Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (PFASS), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, (Garrisonian) Anti-Slavery Society

(Dumont, 1961, p. 286; Yellin, 1994, pp. 73, 301-302, 316, 332-333)


WISE, Daniel, 1813-1898, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, clergyman, educator, abolitionist, newspaper editor.  Lectured in the cause of abolition of slavery.  Appointed editor of Zion’s Herald, he advocated anti-slavery.

(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 579; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 422)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WISE, Daniel, clergyman, b. in Portsmouth, England, 10 Jan., 1813. He was educated at Portsmouth grammar-school, came to the United States in 1833, and, entering the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal church, was pastor of various churches in 1837-'52, and then editor of “Zion's Herald” in Boston till 1856. From that time till 1872 he was editor of the Sunday-school publications of his denomination, and from 1860 till 1872 he was also editor of the tract publications. Since 1872 he has been engaged chiefly in literary work. Wesleyan university gave him the degree of D. D. in 1859. Dr. Wise published and edited in 1838-'44 the first Methodist Sunday-school paper in this country. Among his many works, which are chiefly for youth, are “Life of Lorenzo Dow” (Lowell, Mass., 1840); “History of London” (1841); “Personal Effort” (Boston, 1841); “The Cottage on the Moor” (New York, 1845); “The McGregor Family” (1845); “Lovest Thou Me?” (Boston, 1846); “Guide to the Saviour” (New York, 1847); “Bridal Greetings” (1850); “Life of Ulric Zwingle” (1850); “Aunt Effie” (1852); “My Uncle Toby's Library” (12 vols., Boston, 1853); “Popular Objections to Methodism Considered and Answered” (1856); “The Squire of Walton Hall: a Life of Waterton, the Naturalist” (1874); “The Story of a Wonderful Life: Pen Pictures from the Life of John Wesley” (Cincinnati, 1874); “Vanquished Victors” (Cincinnati, 1876); “Lights and Shadows of Human Life” (New York, 1878); “Heroic Methodists” (1882); “Sketches and Anecdotes of American Methodists” (1883); “Our Missionary Heroes and Heroines” (1884); “Boy Travellers in Arabia” (1885); “Men of Renown” (Cincinnati, 1886); and “Some Remarkable Women” (1887). He has used the pen-names of “Francis Forrester, Esq.,” and “Lawrence Lancewood.” Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI.


WISTAR, Dr. Caspar, 1761-1818, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, physician, educator, president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society

(Locke, 1901, p. 93; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 433; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 23, p. 700; National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, Vol. 2, 1835)

Biography from National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans:

AMONG the individuals of our country, whose talents and example have been most serviceable in establishing the profession of medicine on its present footing, may be ranked without fear of contradiction, the late Professor WISTAR. As a disinterested and faithful physician, an ardent lover of the sciences, an indefatigable teacher, and a genuine philanthropist, his character, may always be examined with pleasure and instruction.

Dr. Wistar was of German descent on the father's side, being the grandson of Caspar Wistar, who emigrated from the dominions of the Elector Palatine in 1717. On the maternal side he was of English origin, his grandfather, Bartholomew Wyatt, having reached this country shortly after William Penn had commenced the settlement of Pennsylvania. His father was a man of great firmness of character, and bestowed much pains on the moral and religious training of his children.

The subject of this notice was born in Philadelphia, September 13th, 1761. His parents being of the religious Society of Friends he was educated in the principles of that sect. His classical studies were also accomplished in an academy in Philadelphia belonging to them.

The first germs of fondness for the profession of medicine, were evolved in 1777, when he was only sixteen years of age, by the battle of Germantown. His religious principles withheld him from participating in the conflict itself, but they, together with his native humanity, prompted him to succor the wounded with such kind offices and attention, as the horrors of a fight render doubly estimable.  The benignant and useful character of the profession of medicine on this occasion, made such an impression upon him, that he determined thenceforth to devote himself to its interests. He accordingly entered as a student into the office of Dr. John Redman of Philadelphia, and continued upwards of three years; the concluding year of his attendance was improved by his following the practice. of Dr. John Jones, an eminent surgeon, who had left New York in consequence of. its occupation by the British. In 1782, he graduated as a Bachelor of Medicine in the college of Philadelphia, an institution to whose reputation he was destined to contribute so largely at a subsequent period of life. As a student, he was distinguished by his zeal, his assiduity, and the promptitude and extent of his information, qualities which were well exhibited on the day of his examination. At that period the profession of medicine was divided into two sects of theorists, one advocating the doctrine of Lentor, invented by Boerhaave, and the other that of Spasm, originating with the no less celebrated Professor of Edinburgh. Dr. Cullen. A schism on this subject existed in the faculty of the college of Philadelphia, and as each professor required explanations conformably to the theory he was attached to, our candidate had to vary his answers so as to suit the predilection of the interrogator. This delicate task he executed with so much address and· good sense, as to excite the highest admiration of the audience.

From his own country, Dr. Wistar repaired to Great Britain, where he remained three years. In. Edinburgh, then the chief resort of Americans, he became highly distinguished for the same qualities which he had exhibited at home. He was there the friend and associate of Sir James McIntosh, afterwards one of the leading members of the British Parliament of Mr. Emmett, subsequently one of the most powerful and eminent members of the New York bar, and of Dr. Jeffray, now professor of Anatomy in the University of Glasgow. In the collision of such talent, Dr. Wistar wielded with great effect the weapons of debate, and obtained in the midst of these competitors the high honor of being made, for two successive years, president of the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh. In 1786, he graduated there as doctor of medicine, having written a thesis, entitled De Animo Demisso. The chief objects of his studies were anatomy, surgery, and chemistry. In January, 1787, he returned home, having left in Edinburgh a name which was most affectionately and respectfully remembered for a long time afterwards. In the year 1792, Dr. Wistar became the associate of Dr. Shippen, after the latter had stood alone for thirty years, in his efforts to create a permanent school. This union grew out of the existence, from 1789 to 1792, of two medical institutions; the most recent of which had its origin from feelings generated by the revolutionary war. One of these schools and the eldest belonged to the college of Philadelphia, and the other to the university of the state of Pennsylvania. Dr. Shippen was professor of anatomy in both. In the year 1789, Dr. Wistar had been appointed professor of chemistry in the college; but before accepting, he hesitated much, lest by his acquiescence the consolidation of the two institutions, which he had much at heart, should be delayed or prevented. During his deliberations it occurred to him, that he could be much more efficient as a professor in procuring this union, than as a private individual; he therefore accepted the place of chemist, and in three years afterwards, had the satisfaction of seeing his wishes realized, and of reflecting that he himself had contributed largely, by his moderation and good management,- to an arrangement which has since been so successful in developing the character and usefulness of the present institution, under the title of University of Pennsylvania.

Nature did not grant to Dr. Wistar that graceful and commanding exterior which she had lavished on Dr. Shippen, but even strangers were struck with the benignity of his countenance. Extreme suavity of deportment on every occasion of life, was his predominant mode of conduct. Many of his students remember the courteous and sprightly smile, with which he entered and departed from his lecture room. As a teacher, he allured them, by gentleness and affability, to flock round him on every occasion, and to ask him such questions as their want of information or misapprehension suggested. He was always on the alert to serve them in sickness, and to procure for them such places of profit and trust as his personal influence could control, but invariably, on such occasions, with a conscientious regard to his knowledge of their characters and to their qualifications. This principle of impartial, but merciful justice, always guided him in his decisions on the claims of candidates for medical degrees. Willing to attribute every deficiency to embarrassment, he only became convinced that it was ignorance, when every proper mode of inquiry repeatedly and leisurely tried, proved the incapacity of the candidate. In such cases- his decisions were inflexible; as a conscientious man having a public trust of. first rate importance, he never consented for any one to take a recognized appointment in the profession, with a smaller share of knowledge than what he conceived necessary to the practice of medicine. From the goodness of his heart, he felt more on many such occasions, for the candidate than the candidate felt for himself. His justice was evidently so impartial, and his goodness so conspicuous, that the slightest breath of censure was never cast upon his proceeding, either by the fortunate or the unfortunate; on the contrary, their admiration of him had received a new impulse.

In his social intercourse he possessed unusual tact in communicating pleasure. Though gifted with unusual strength and cultivation of intellect, and possessing varied and immense resources of conversation, he, on every occasion, seemed more desirous to hear than to be heard. From this turn of mind, his conversation abounded, in a remarkable degree, in questions; he culled information in that way from every source, and where he found a deficiency, he imparted abundantly of his own stock. Many young men, on first obtaining the pleasure of his acquaintance; were struck with this peculiarity-he inquired concerning the mountains, the rivers, the natural productions, the manners of the section of country to which they belonged, and listened with patient and obvious satisfaction to their answers. These interrogations not being expected, the person to whom they were addressed was not always prepared to answer them correctly. But if, through a desire of displaying more information than he actually possessed, the unfortunate individual answered like one who was well acquainted with the subject, another well-timed and pertinent question, hinted to him that it was better for him to confess ignorance than to speak erroneously, for he was talking to one already acquainted with the subject of conversation. All this was done with so much delicacy, that pleasure instead of pain was excited, and many persons must have resolved forthwith to make themselves well acquainted with objects so readily learned, and which till then, it had' never occurred to them, could become such interesting subjects of inquiry and of conversation. This happy tact made Dr. Wistar the charm of every circle. Unbounded in his hospitality, and fascinating in his manners, his house the resort of literary men of every description, both citizens and strangers; his company was courted equally by the young and the old, the gay and the sedate. Upon his habit of a Saturday-evening entertainment, has been, founded the well-known. associations of Philadelphia, called the Wistar parties whose hebdomadal hospitality contributes so much to the charm of 'its society, and to the gratification of respectable strangers. It was very justly said of him, "if he addressed a promiscuous circle, he spoke like a man of the world, carefully avoiding every thing professional, technical, or in any way insulated; if an individual, he so suited his remarks to his taste and capacities, as to entice him into discourse, and draw from him his knowledge of the subject discussed.[1]

So deeply had his philanthropy affected his general deportment, that persons but just acquainted with him, were as fully persuaded of his disposition as those who had known him for years. In the sick room he was the ministering angel, compassionate, unwearied, prompt, and deeply skilled; in bad cases never abandoning his patients, or ceasing to apply the resources of the art till life was extinct. In those terrible and unexpected accidents which sometimes come with overwhelming suddenness upon the practitioner of, surgery, when even the stoutest and most collected hearts are paralyzed, Dr. Wistar, though on common occasions the most sensitive of mankind, found here all his faculties at their post.  Whatever ingenuity could devise, and skill combine, was rapidly executed. He was not one who, in witnessing· the immensity of a calamity, forgot the means by which it could be repaired. He practised on the most disinterested principles, being possessed of a good fortune with a lucrative professorship, his charges were proverbially moderate. In this, however, he probably· did a disservice to the profession. Inconsiderable charges from a man of his reputation and extent of business, in forming a sort of rule in the profession, of course affected deeply such as were only beginning, and such as had not the other resources which he wielded. Indeed, society itself is scarcely benefited by such a proceeding, for it is generally admitted, that the · most able members of the profession, have, for the most part, received the first impulse from the stimulus of necessity, encouraged with the hope of reward; but if the value of the latter be diminished much, it turns the minds of enterprising given from the pursuit, and renders those who are already in it, lukewarm; under which circumstances medicine loses much of its skill and respectability. No man, however, entertained higher notions of the value of professional services than Dr. Wistar, and it was·this very lofty conception of them which prevented him from estimating their worth in pounds, shillings, and pence.

Scrupulous and conscientious to an extreme in doing everything for a patient which he thought could be of service, his efforts went much beyond those of a simple medical attendant. He felt the deepest personal interest for his patient, and not unfrequently afterwards his mind was filled with the strongest sentiments of friendship, founded principally on the benefits which it had been his happiness to extend. In difficult chronic cases he made numerous and protracted visits, and entered into the most minute and comprehensive investigation of them. It was on such occasions that the solace and sympathy of friendship were superadded to the balm of the healing art, and that impressions of devoted affection to him are to be found among numbers of individuals yet alive in Philadelphia, who upon any one, touching this string even gently, find it vibrate to the inmost recesses of their hearts, and in the crowd of recollections which the association excites, incapable of utterance, give vent to them in a flood of tears. To call this man good, is only to show the insufficiency of human language.

In a point of vast importance to the harmony of society and to the efficacy of Christian convictions, he was a perfect model. The rule "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," was most indelibly and productively imprinted on his mind. Endowed by nature with a sensibility to be compared only with that of a delicate, youthful, and highly refined female, it is not to be expected but that in his profession he received some rude shocks, enough so 'indeed to stagger a mind more coarsely organized than his own. Incapable of injustice and of rancor himself, when the first burst of indignation was over, which he owed to human nature, then came the sunshine of a calm and undisturbed conscience. Judging other men by himself, he trusted that there was some mistake, that it had not been intended, that the person had been betrayed into extremities by a vehement and uncontrollable disposition. If, however, a perseverance in injury proved that it was a deliberate and unrepented act of malice, no harsh retort came from his lips; they were closed forever upon the personal demerits of the individual, while he did ample justice to the merits, professional, or otherwise, which the person may have possessed. From this Christian charity, even many of his most intimate friends declare that they never heard him depart, nor utter an unkind word against such as had flagrantly injured him.

Dr. Wistar commenced the discharge of his duties as adjunct professor of anatomy in the little building in Fifth street, opposite the State-House yard. It is now called the Health Office. The increasing celebrity of the school, producing a corresponding concourse of students, that house was insufficient to contain them. Accordingly, about the year 1807, a building was erected on Ninth street below Market. In the winter of 1808, the class met in it. Dr. Shippen, whose domestic misfortunes and bodily infirmities had borne heavily upon him for some years, had retired. from the active duties of the chair. But on this occasion he delivered the introductory lecture, which was rendered more than usually interesting to him by his recollections of almost half a century, when but twelve students had assembled to follow his course, in an obscure room in the city. Now he bad spacious and comparatively elegant accommodations, and an immense concourse of students from all parts of the union. In a few weeks after this effort of strength,' in which he described in glowing terms his emotions, he was gathered to his fathers. This circumstance left Dr. Wistar sole professor of anatomy.

The talents which had borne him up to this period of life, were now applied with renewed vigor. Determined on discharging his duties to the best of his power, no pains, no expense, were spared. Well experienced in the best mode of instruction·, in what was most useful to be learned, he sustained in the maturity of his reputation, the high opinion that had been formed of him. As a teacher of anatomy, differing in many respects from his illustrious predecessor, his elocution was equally popular. His style of speaking was of that earnest and fluent kind, which, abounding in important truths, commanded the attention without restricting itself to the formal rules of oratory. It was not so much the speaker that spoke as the subject which he was discussing; the absorbing interest was in the latter.

From the uncertainty of continuing the course of anatomy in the early years of the school, no arrangements had been made for an anatomical museum. Dr. Wistar soon became sensible of this deficiency, and to the day of his death continued to supply it. Many years before, he had made a very fine and numerous collection of dried preparations of the arterial and venous systems. A considerable number of corroded preparations in wax were executed about the same period. About the year 1812, a friend of his travelling in Italy, enabled him to add to his cabinet, from the school of Mascagni, several very superior preparations of the lymphatics; their arrival give an impulse to the cultivation of that branch of practical anatomy among the students of the school, and from it has resulted a number of very creditable preparations. The most signal effort, however, of Dr. Wistar in this line, was having a number of very large models in wood executed by Rush, with the view of giving every member of his class an equal opportunity of learning. The last year of Dr. Westar’s mortal career was marked by an unusual concourse of students, and by a series of lectures, in which he even exceeded his former reputation. In his fifty-eighth year, animated by a new and improved lecture-room, but in an impaired state of health, his excessive fondness for the duties of the chair still stimulated him to advance in the noble career. In this zenith of popularity, and of public confidence, in January, 1818, he was assailed with the malady destined by Providence to close his labors. So long as reason maintained her seat, his exclamation was "Well, to-morrow I shall certainly be able to meet my class," and even when dark delirium threw her mantle over his faculties, his incoherent ravings were addressed to the same subject, and it was only by coercion that he was prevented one day, long after the usual hour of his lecture had expired, from repairing to the University.

Thus perished one of the most distinguished ornaments of the medical profession, and of the literary circles of this country. That his loss was deeply felt, was manifested by the various eulogiums and notices of this event, in different parts of the United States.[2] A constant memorial of his estimation is now found in the name of the Wistar parties before alluded to, and in the cards of invitation of the association having a vignette of his head.

Source:  Longacre, James B. & James Herring, National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans.  Philadelphia: American Academy of Fine Arts, 1834-1839




WOOLMAN, John, 1720-1772, Mount Holly, New Jersey, Society of Friends, Quaker leader, clergyman, author, Free Labor Movement, radical abolitionist leader.  Encouraged merchants and consumers not to purchase goods made by slave labor.  Traveled extensively among Quakers, speaking out against slavery.  He wrote and published Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes: Recommended to the Professor of Christianity of Every Denominations, 1754.  In a letter to his fellow Quaker, Woolman said, “Now dear Friends if we continually bear in mind the royal law of doing to others as we would be done by, we shall never think of bereaving our fellow creatures of that valuable blessing, liberty, nor to grow rich by their bondage.” 

(Bruns, 1977, pp. 16, 68-78, 223, 246-247, 383; Cady, 1965; Drake, 1950, pp. 51-64, 68-71, 107, 115, 155, 189, 200; Dumond, 1961, pp. 17-19, 22, 87; Locke, 1901, pp. 27-31, 34, 94; Pease, 1965, pp. 5-14; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 16, 18, 232, 433, 457-458, 519-520, 551-553; Soderlund, 1985, pp. 4, 9, 10, 13, 17, 26-27, 29, 30, 43, 44n, 45, 47, 49, 52, 78, 94, 96, 97, 136, 140, 166, 171, 175, 176, 186, 199; Sox, 1999; Woolman, 1922; Zilversmit, 1967, pp. 70-72, 75, 77, 106, 169, 227; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 609-610; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 516; American Reformers: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary, New York, 1985; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 23, p. 854)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WOOLMAN, John, Quaker preacher, b. in Northampton, Burlington co., N. J., in August, 1720; d. in York, England, 7 Oct., 1772. He worked on a farm with his father till he was twenty- one years of age, when he became clerk to a storekeeper at Mount Holly, where he opened a school for poor children, and first began to speak at the meetings of the sect. Wishing to visit the various societies of Friends throughout the colonies, and to preach to them, he first learned the trade of a tailor, as best adapted for supporting him in the itinerant life that he had resolved to lead. In 1746 he set out on a tour, with Isaac Andrews, to visit the Friends in the back settlements of Virginia, and he spent a great part of his life in such journeys, for the purpose of preaching. He spoke and wrote much against slavery. In 1763 he visited the Indians on Susquehanna river. Early in 1772 he went to England, and, while attending the quarterly meeting at York, he was smitten with small-pox, and died, after a few days' illness. Woolman's writings have been much admired, and were highly praised by Charles Lamb. Perhaps the most interesting of his works is the posthumous “Journal of John Woolman's Life and Travels in the Service of the Gospel” (Philadelphia, 1775, edited, with an introduction, by John G. Whittier, 1871). Woolman also published “Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes” (Philadelphia, 1753; 2d part, 1762); “Considerations on Pure Wisdom and Human Policy, on Labor, on Schools, and on the Right Use of the Lord's Outward Gifts” (1768); “Considerations on the True Harmony of Mankind, and How it is to be Maintained” (1770); and “An Epistle to the Quarterly and Monthly Meetings of Friends” (1772). His “Serious Considerations, with Some of his Dying Expressions,” appeared after his death (London, 1773). Various manuscripts that he left were included in an edition of his works (2 parts, Philadelphia, 1774-'5). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI. pp. 609-610.


WORK, Henry Clay, 1832-1884, Middletown, Connecticut, composer, songwriter, abolitionist.  Active in the Underground Railroad.  Wrote Union songs, including “Marching Through Georgia.”  Son of abolitionist Alanson Work. 

(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 614; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 531)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WORK, Henry Clay, song-writer, b. in Middletown, Conn., 1 Oct., 1832; d. in Hartford, Conn., 8 June, 1884. He was the son of Alanson Work, who was sentenced to twelve years’ imprisonment in 1841 in Missouri for assisting fugitive slaves to escape. While young the son removed with his father to Illinois, where he received a common-school education. He returned to Connecticut, was apprenticed to a printer, and employed his leisure in studying harmony. His first success was achieved during the civil war, when he sprang into favor by his war-songs, among which were “Kingdom Coming,” “Marching through Georgia,” and “Babylon is Fallen.” His songs number nearly one hundred, and include “Nicodemus the Slave,” “Lily Dale,” and “My Grandfather's Clock.” He went to Europe in 1865, and on his return invested the fortune that his songs had brought him in a fruit-raising enterprise in Vineland, N. J., which was a failure. In 1875 he became connected as composer with Root and Cady, the music-publishers, who had published Work's songs until the plates were destroyed by the Chicago fire of 1871. Mr. Work was also an inventor, and patented a knitting-machine, a walking doll, and a rotary engine.  Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1888.



Chapter: “Calhoun's Resolutions. --Atherton's Resolutions.--Ashburton Treaty,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

These feelings were intensified by the reception in 1840 of a circular letter to the governors of the slaveholding States from the World's Convention, assembled in London for the avowed purpose of promoting the universal abolition of slavery and the slave-trade. It was signed by the venerable and illustrious Thomas Clarkson. Setting forth the evils of slavery and the slave-trade, it expressed the conviction that the only way to extinguish the former was to abolish the latter. 

It appealed to the governors of the slaveholding States “to employ all that influence and power with which Divine Providence had entrusted them to secure immediate liberty to the slave." Recognizing the brotherhood of man, and the binding obligations of Christianity, it addressed its appeals to the reason, heart, and conscience. By request, Seth M. Gates, then a member of the House of Representatives at Washington, forwarded these circulars, under his own frank, to the governors thus addressed. Governor Pennington of New Jersey, Speaker of the House at the opening of the Rebellion, to whom the circular had been sent, slavery not being then quite extinct in his State, acknowledged, in a letter to Mr. Gates, the importance of the principles therein enunciated, and expressed his earnest desire that the country, at the earliest day, should join hand in hand with the humane on the other side of the water " in washing out the stain upon her national character."

But the governors of the Southern States professed to be greatly exasperated. Some of them made communications to their legislatures, denouncing the circular as incendiary and calculated to excite slaves to insurrection. Among those who denounced the circular, and especially the action of .Mr. Gates, was James K. Polk, Governor of Tennessee, and four years afterward elected President of the United States. He was accustomed to carry the envelope with him at the hustings, and to exhibit the frank of the “treasonable " member of Congress, who was endeavoring, he averred, to excite slaves to insurrection. He declared, too, that the contents of the circular were too wicked to be read in public. For franking this circular Mr. Gates was roundly denounced, and a reward of five hundred dollars was offered by a wealthy Georgia slaveholder for his delivery at Savannah. Such were the feelings which then swayed the Southern people, colored all their opinions, and gave direction to all their conduct.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 1.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 399-400.


WRIGHT, Elizur Jr., 1804-1885, New York City, reformer, editor, abolitionist leader.  Vice president, 1833-1835, and founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), December 1833.  Leader, Liberty Party.  Editor of the Massachusetts Abolitionist, founded 1839. 

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 177, 179, 245, 301; Filler, 1960, pp. 61, 63, 74, 132, 135, 156, 193; Goodheart, 1990; Mabee, 1970, pp. 189, 190, 256, 322, 339, 364; Mitchell, 2007, pp. 6-8, 13-14, 16-17, 20, 44, 46, 67, 72; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 46, 521-522; Abolitionist, Vol. I, No. XII, December, 1833; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, pp. 621-622; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 548; American Reformers: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary, New York, 1985; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 24, p. 11)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WRIGHT, Elizur, reformer, b. in South Canaan, Conn., 12 Feb., 1804; d. in Medford, Mass., 21 Nov., 1885. His father, Elizur (1762-1845), was graduated at Yale in 1781, and became known for his mathematical learning and devotion to the Presbyterian faith. In 1810 the family removed to Tallmadge, Ohio, and the son worked on the farm and attended an academy that was conducted by his father. His home was often the refuge for fugitive slaves, and he early acquired anti-slavery opinions. He was graduated at Yale in 1826, and taught in Groton, Mass. In 1829-'33 he was professor of mathematics and natural philosophy in Western Reserve college, Hudson, Ohio. Mr. Wright attended the convention in Philadelphia in December, 1833, that formed the American anti-slavery society, of which he was chosen secretary, and, removing to New York, he took part in editing the “Emancipator.” He conducted the paper called “Human Rights” in 1834-'5, and the “Quarterly Anti-Slavery Magazine” in 1835-'8, and through his continued opposition to slavery incurred the enmity of its advocates. His house was once besieged by a mob, and an attempt was made to kidnap him and convey him to North Carolina. He removed to Boston in 1839, and became editor of the “Massachusetts Abolitionist.” For several years he was connected with the press, and in 1846 he established the “Chronotype,” a daily newspaper which he conducted until it was merged in the “Commonwealth” (1850), of which he was for a time the editor. Mr. Wright was twice indicted and tried for libel, in consequence of his severe strictures on the liquor interests while publishing the “Chronotype,” and again in 1851 for aiding the rescue in Boston of Shadrach, a runaway slave. Between 1853 and 1858, besides editing the “Railroad Times,” he gave his attention to invention and mechanics, constructing a spike-making machine, a water-faucet, and an improvement in pipe-coupling. He patented the last two, and manufactured them for a short time. In 1853 he published “Life Insurance Valuation Tables” (2d ed., revised and enlarged, 1871), and in 1858 he secured an act of the Massachusetts legislature to organize an insurance commission, on a basis that required the annual valuation of the policy liabilities of all life-insurance companies in the state. He was appointed insurance commissioner of Massachusetts under this act, which office he held until 1866. He obtained the passage of the Massachusetts non-forfeiture act of 1861, and also its substitute in 1880, which was embodied with some change in the insurance codification bill of 1887. He devised a new formula for finding the values of policies of various terms, now known as the “accumulation formula,” and, in order to facilitate his work, invented and afterward patented (1869) the arithmeter, a mechanical contrivance for multiplication and division, based on the logarithmic principle. Afterward he became consulting actuary for life-insurance companies. He was a delegate to the convention of 1840, which formed the Liberty party and nominated James G. Birney for the presidency, and edited “The Free American” in 1841. He was a promoter of the convention at Philadelphia on 4 July, 1876, which organized the National liberal league to support state secularization, and was the second president of the league, being twice re-elected. He was a member of the Forestry association, was instrumental in obtaining the Massachusetts forestry act of 1882, and labored for a permanent forest preserve. He wrote an introduction to Whittier's “Ballads, and other Poems” (London, 1844); and published a translation in verse of La Fontaine's “Fables” (2 vols., Boston, 1841; 2d ed., New York, 1859); “Savings Bank Life Insurance, with Illustrative Tables” (1872); “The Politics and Mysteries of Life Insurance” (1873); and “Myron Holley, and what he did for Liberty and True Religion,” a contribution to anti-slavery records (1882). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI. pp. 621-622.


WRIGHT, Frances “Fanny”, 1795-1852, Dundee, Scotland, Utica, New York, reformer, author, orator, abolitionist.  First woman in America to actively oppose slavery.  Founded Nashoba Plantation to train free Blacks to be self-sufficient.  Manager, American Anti-Slaery Society (AASS), 1843-1845.  

(Eckardt, 1984; Filler, 1960, pp. 26, 68, 113; Pease, 1965, pp. 38-43; Perkins, 1939; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 30, 110, 396-397, 522-523; Wright, 1972; Yellin, 1994, pp. 10n, 223-224; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 622; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 549; American Reformers: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary, New York, 1985; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 24, p. 14)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WRIGHT, Fanny, reformer, b. in Dundee, Scotland, 6 Sept., 1795; d. in Cincinnati, Ohio, 14 Dec., 1852. Her father was an intimate friend of Adam Smith, Dr. William Cullen, and other scientific and literary men. She became an orphan at an early age, was brought up as a ward in chancery by a maternal aunt, and early adopted the philosophy of the French materialists. She travelled in this country in 1818-'20, and was introduced by Joseph Rodman Drake in the first of the “Croaker” papers. On her return to England she published her “Views of Society and Manners in America” (London, 1821; Paris, 1822). On the invitation of Lafayette she went to Paris, and in 1825 she returned to this country. She purchased 2,400 acres in Tennessee, at Neshoba (now Memphis), and established there a colony of emancipated slaves, whose social condition she sought to elevate. Neshoba, which was held in trust for her by Gen. Lafayette, was restored by him when he discovered that her plans could not be carried out without conflicting with the laws of the state. The negroes in the colony were afterward sent to Hayti. In 1833-'6 she appeared as a public lecturer in the eastern states, where her attacks upon slavery and other social institutions attracted large audiences and led to the establishment of “Fanny Wright societies,” but her freedom of speech caused great opposition and the hostility of the press and the church. Fitz-Greene Halleck said her chief theme was “just knowledge,” which she pronounced “joost nolidge.” She then became associated with Robert Dale Owen in New Harmony, Ind., edited there “The Gazette,” and lectured in behalf of his colony, but with little success. In 1838 she visited France, and married there M. D'Arusmont, whose system of philosophy resembled her own, but she was soon separated from him, resumed her own name, and resided with her daughter in Cincinnati, Ohio, until her death. Her last years were spent in retirement. She was benevolent, unselfish, eccentric, and fearless. She published in London in 1817 “Altdorf,” a tragedy, founded on the tradition of William Tell and unsuccessfully played at the Park theatre; “A few Days in Athens, being a Translation of a Greek Manuscript discovered in Herculaneum” (London, 1822); and a “Course of Popular Lectures on Free Inquiry, Religion, Morals, Opinions, etc., delivered in the United States” (New York, 1829; 6th ed., 1836). See “Biography, Notes, and Political Letters of Fanny Wright D'Arusmont,” published by John Windt (London, 1844), and “Memoir of Fanny Wright, the Pioneer Woman in the Cause of Women's Rights,” by Amos Gilbert (Cincinnati, 1855). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI. pp. 622. 


WRIGHT, Henry Clarke, 1797-1870, Boston, Massachusetts, reformer, orator, author, abolitionist leader.  Executive Committee, American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), 1859-1864. 

(Filler, 1960, pp. 55, 109, 115, 120, 129, 131, 133, 138, 263; Mabee, 1970, pp. 42, 43, 46, 47, 67-69, 71-75, 77, 80, 82, 94, 140, 195-197, 293, 296, 324, 329, 336, 345, 346, 359, 361, 367, 371; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 399; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 623; American Reformers: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary, New York, 1985; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 24, p. 28)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WRIGHT, Henry Clarke, reformer, b. in Sharon, Litchfield co., Conn., 29 Aug., 1797; d. in Pawtucket, R.I., 16 Aug., 1870. For many years he was a noted lecturer on anti-slavery topics, and was an advocate of peace, socialism, and spiritualism, on all of which subjects his convictions were vehement, and were delivered with eloquence. At one time he was conspicuous among the band of anti-slavery orators that assembled annually in New York at the anniversary of the American anti-slavery society, and by its earnestness enlisted the sympathy of the people. He was the author of “Man-Killing by Individuals and Nations Wrong” (Boston, 1841); “A Kiss for a Blow” (London, 1843; new ed., 1866); “Defensive War proved to be a Denial of Christianity” (1846); “Human Life Illustrated” (Boston, 1849); “Marriage and Parentage” (1854); and “The Living Present and the Dead Past” (1865). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI. pp. 623.


WRIGHT, Paulina, abolitionist, Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (PFASS), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

(Yellin, 1994, p. 73)


WRIGHT, Robert, 1752-1826, Maryland, U. S. Congressman and Senator, Governor of Maryland.  Co-founder and charter member of the American Colonization Society. 

(Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 564; Staudenraus, P. J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, p. 27)


WRIGHT, Theodore Sedgwick, 1797-1847, African American, New York, clergyman, abolitionist leader, orator.  American Missionary Association (AMA).  Manager, 1834-1840, and Member of the Executive Committee, 1834-1840, of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS).  Executive Committee of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, 1843-1847. 

(Dumond, 1961, p. 330; Mabee, 1970, pp. 29, 51, 58, 59, 61, 62, 91, 105-106, 115, 129, 130, 150, 188, 226, 276, 285; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 47, 166, 305-306; Sorin, 1971, pp. 81-85, 90-92, 97; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 24, p. 62; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 12, p. 320)


WYTHE, George, 1726-1806, Virginia lawmaker, law professor, opponent of slavery.  Member of committee that proposed gradual emancipation of slaves in Virginia.  Signatory of the Declaration of Independence.  Virginia Representative to the Continental Congress. 

(Locke, 1901, pp. 76, 91; Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. VI, p. 634; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 586)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

WYTHE, George, signer of the Declaration of Independence, b. in Elizabeth City county, Va., in 1726; d. in Richmond, Va., 8 June, 1806. His father was a wealthy planter, and his mother, who possessed unusual intelligence and learning, gave him his early education. Under her tuition he became an accomplished Latin and Greek scholar, an excellent mathematician, acquired a liberal knowledge of the sciences, and was further instructed at William and Mary; but the death of both parents before he attained his majority and the consequent uncontrolled possession of a large fortune led him into extravagance and dissipation. He reformed when he was about thirty years old, studied law under John Lewis, an eminent practitioner, and quickly rose to the front rank at the Virginia bar. Early in life he was chosen to the house of burgesses, where he was recognized as one of the leaders, and he continued to serve until the beginning of the Revolution. On 14 Nov., 1764, he was appointed a member of its committee to prepare and report a petition to the king, a memorial to the house of lords, and a remonstrance to the house of commons on the proposed stamp-act. He drew up the last-named paper, but it so far exceeded the demands of his colleagues in boldness and truth that it was viewed as bordering on treason, and accepted only after much modification. From that time he continued to exert all his influence in favor of the independence of the colonies, and in August, 1775, he was appointed “delegate to the Continental congress from Virginia, signing the Declaration of Independence on 4 July of the next year. On 5 Nov., 1776, he was appointed by the legislature, with Thomas Jefferson, Edmund Pendleton, George Mason, and Thomas Ludwell Lee, on a committee to revise the state laws of British and colonial enactment, and to prepare bills for re-enacting them with such alterations as were required under the new government. Mason and Lee did not serve, but so industrious were the other three members of the committee that on 18 June, 1779, they had prepared 126 bills, which they reported to the assembly. .He became speaker of the house of delegates in 1777, the same year was chosen one of the three judges of the chancery court of Virginia., and, on the reorganization of the court of equity, was constituted sole chancellor, which post he held for more than twenty years. Before the close of the Revolution, debts had been incurred between American and British merchants, and the recovery of these was the subject of the 6th article of John Jay's treaty with Great Britain, but popular feeling was strong against legal decrees in favor of British claimants. Chancellor Wythe was the first judge in the United States that decided the claims to be recoverable. He lost almost all his property during the Revolution, but he supplemented his small income as chancellor, which was £300 a year, by accepting the professorship of law in William and Mary, which he held in 1779-'89. In the latter year his arduous duties compelled his resignation, and he removed to Richmond, Va. In December, 1786, he was chosen a member of the convention that framed the constitution of the United States, and he regularly attended its sessions, but, being absent on the last day, failed to sign the constitution. He was subsequently twice a presidential elector. In the latter part of his life he emancipated his slaves, furnishing them with means of support until they learned to take care of themselves. In the eighty-first year of his age, while he was still in the full vigor of his intellect and the exercise of the duties of the chancellorship, he was poisoned. His nephew, George Wythe Sweeny, was tried for the crime, but was acquitted. William and Mary gave Judge Wythe the degree of LL. D. in 1790. He was twice married, but his only child died in infancy. Among his pupils were two presidents of the United States, a chief justice, and others who attained high rank in the legal profession. Thomas Jefferson, his law pupil and devoted adherent, said of him in notes that he made in 1820 for a biography of Wythe, which he never completed: “No man ever left behind him a character more venerated than George Wythe. His virtue was of the purest kind, his integrity inflexible, his justice exact. He might truly be called the Cato of his country, without the avarice of the Roman, for a more disinterested person never lived. He was of middle size, his face manly, comely, and engaging. Such was George Wythe, the honor of his own and the model of future times.” The engraving shows his house in Williamsburg, Va. He published “Decisions in Virginia by the High Court of Chancery, with Remarks upon Decrees by the Court of Appeals” (Richmond, 1795; 2d ed., with a memoir by Benjamin B. Minor (1852). Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1888.


ZAKRZEWSKA, Marie Elizabeth, 1829-1902, physician, radical abolitionist, women’s rights activist.  Associated with Wendell Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison. 

(Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 10, Pt. 2, p. 642)


Return to Top of Page


[1] Eulogium on Caspar Wistar, by Charles Caldwell, M. D.

[2] Eulogium on Dr. Wistar by Chief Justice Tilghman, March 11th, 1818. by Professor Hosack, January 26th, 1818., " by Charles Caldwell, M. D., February 21st, 1818. Note Necrologique Par J. Correa de Serra, Avril, 1818, unpublished.