The GOSPEL TRUTH
THEODORE WELD: CRUSADER FOR FREEDOM
BENJAMIN P. THOMAS
THE LANE DEBATES
When Weld enrolled at Lane Seminary he was the only student with forthright abolitionist convictions. Some others had antislavery leanings, but they favored the gradual methods of the colonizationists. As one student, Huntington Lyman, put it: "I suppose there was a general consent in the institution that slavery was somehow wrong and to be got rid of. There was not a readiness to pronounce it a sin." A student colonization society had a large and active membership.
Weld not only held aloof from the society but determined to undermine it. Working quietly but persistently, he concentrated his efforts on William T. Allan, the Alabamian, and won him over. Born and reared in the midst of slavery and a prospective heir to slaves himself, Allan was a powerful ally. Working together, he and Weld soon enlisted so many students that they challenged the colonizationists to a public discussion. The faculty were invited to attend and take part, if they wished, and Beecher favored doing so at first. He would propound his notion that abolition and colonization were not antagonistic and should move concomitantly. But some faculty members, and especially the unpopular Professor Biggs, foresaw unpleasant divisions within the student body and public indignation inimical to the welfare of the seminary. In the end the faculty advised postponement. Their action was merely admonitory, however, and the students decided to go ahead.
This public discussion of slavery--known to history as the Lane Debates--continued for eighteen nights. Despite the inflammatory nature of the subject, good temper ruled throughout. The spirit of the meetings was prayerful and inquisitive, with no invective or denunciation, even though eighteen of the participants came of slaveholding families and one owned slaves himself. The first nine nights were devoted to the question whether it was the duty of the slaveholding states to abolish slavery immediately. Weld opened the inquiry and held forth for two whole evenings. Then William Allan told about the slaves' condition in Alabama. Asa Stone, who had been teaching in Mississippi, described what he had seen there. James Bradley, the colored man, had the audience in tears as he related how he was brought to the United States on a slave ship as a child, and sold to a South Carolina planter, who, moving to Arkansas, had allowed Bradley to work out his freedom. James A. Thome, a Kentuckian, told how slavery demoralized the planters' sons and degraded society generally. Huntington Iyman described slave life in Louisiana. At the conclusion, all except four or five students, who had not yet formed an opinion, voted for immediate abolition. It is noteworthy, however, that under the phraseology of the question under discussion it was the people of the slave states who were to act.
The remaining nine nights were devoted to consideration of the American Colonization Society, the question being whether the doctrines, tendencies, and spirit of the society were such as to render it worthy of the patronage of Christian people. There were several able discourses, but Weld's surpassed them all. One student, John P. Pierce, recalled that he was a staunch colonizationist when the inquiry began, and would not even attend at first. "I have no precise recollection of the Debates, saving bro. Weld," he wrote years later, "who was the means of opening my blind eyes." At the end the students voted down colonization almost unanimously and proceeded to organize an abolition society.
It would seem that Weld and the Northern students were content to remain in the background and give the prominent positions to Southerners so that the movement might appear to be of Southern origin, for every one of the officers of the society was from the South: William T. Allan of Alabama, president; Marius R. Robinson of Tennessee, vice-president; Andrew Benton of Missouri, recording secretary; James A. Thome of Kentucky, treasurer; and C. S. Hodges of Virginia, auditor. On the board of managers, besides Weld, were James Bradley of Guinea, Abner S. Ross of New Jersey, James M. Allan of Alabama, Huntington Lyman, George Whipple, Henry B. Stanton, and James Steele, the last four being from New York.
And the students had been aroused to more than mere lip service. "We believe that faith without works is dead," wrote Weld to Lewis Tappan. "We have formed a large and efficient organization for elevating the colored people of Cincinnati."
Among the students' projects were a lyceum, at which they lectured to the free Negroes of Cincinnati three or four times a week on grammar, arithmetic, geography, and kindred elementary subjects; a school held every week-day evening, where Negroes were taught to read; three Sunday Schools, and several Bible classes. Augustus Wattles obtained leave of absence from the seminary in order to devote his entire time to teaching the colored people. His school became so crowded that for several days he had to turn ten to twenty persons away; but soon he was joined by the Tennesseean Marius Robinson, who also obtained leave of absence from the seminary. Other students gave part-time help, sharing the teaching burden in order not to hinder their own studies.
Weld took time off whenever possible to teach grammar. The evening schools often ended in prayer-meetings, and Weld, listening to the sad, sweet lilt of Negro voices raised in a hymn, is reported to have exclaimed: "Bless the Lord they can sing." In response to an appeal from Weld, Arthur Tappan paid the expenses of sending four young ladies from New York to take over the burden of teaching the colored women and children.
Weld undertook a study of the local Negro problem. "Of the almost 3000 blacks in Cincinnati more than three-fourths of the adults are emancipated slaves who worked out their own freedom," he reported to Lewis Tappan. "... I visited this week about 30 families, and found that some members of more than half these families were still in bondage, and the father, mother and children were struggling to lay up money enough to purchase their freedom. I found one man who had just finished paying for his wife and five children. Another man and wife who bought themselves some years ago, and have been working day and night to purchase their children; they had just redeemed the last! and had paid for themselves and children 1400 dollars! Another woman who recently paid the last instalment of the purchase money for her husband. She had purchased him by taking in washing, and working late at night, after going out and performing as help at hard work. But I cannot tell half, and must stop. After spending three or four hours, and getting facts, I was forced to stop from sheer heartache and agony."
Weld's concern for the blacks became so poignant that every minute he could spare from his studies was devoted to them. "If I ate in the City it was at their Tables," he recalled. "If I slept in the City it was in their homes. If I attended parties, it was theirs--weddings--theirs--Funerals--theirs--Religious meetings--theirs--Sabbath schools--Bible classes--theirs. During the 18 months that I spent at Lane Seminary I did not attend Dr. Beechers Church once. Nor did I ever attend any other of the Presbyterian Churches in the City except brother Mahans, and did not attend there more than half a dozen times The white methodist I attended once only .... I was with the colored people in their meetings by day and by night.
Still Weld could not forego his exercise. To keep fit he went into the deep woods late at night and climbed young trees, working his way up until they bent down under his weight and then dropping off fourteen feet or more to the ground.
Weld foresaw far-reaching consequences from this work among the Negroes, because here was a group who were "their own letters of introduction on the score of energy, decision, perseverence and high attempt--an excellent material to work upon." Here the Lane students, at their own doorstep, had a chance to explode the racial inferiority myth. Augustus Wattles was enthusiastic. "Everything goes on here as we could wish," he wrote to the editor of the Emancipator, the organ of the American Antislavery Society. "Our colored brethren are animated with hope. A calm determination to alter their condition is firmly fixed in every breast. Elevation, moral, political, and religious, fires their mind. Frequently, in passing their houses, old women will stop me, and ask if I think they are too old to learn. On receiving for answer, You are never too old to learn, they brighten up, and commonly add, 'We have been slaves and never seen such times as these. We have most done paying for ourselves (or our children, as the case may be,) then we shall come to school.' There has been no opposition to our schools and I am induced to believe the citizens generally approve them."
But Wattles did not know the citizens. Already a strong groundswell of opposition was spreading rapidly, just as it had done in New England whenever attempts at Negro education had been made.
A short time before the Lane experiment, Simeon Jocelyn, a minister of New Haven, Connecticut, and one of those who attended the New York antislavery meeting with Weld in 1831, had planned a Negro college in the shadow of Yale. Arthur Tappan backed him. But when Jocelyn announced his project, New Haven voiced its anguish with a vigor that bent its elms. Jocelyn bowed to public prejudice; but Prudence Crandall, a pretty young Quakeress whose limpid eyes, soft smile, and boyish-bobbed hair belied her consecrated stubbornness, was less discreet. She had established a girls' school at Canterbury, Connecticut, and accepted a young colored girl as one of her pupils. When the outraged parents of her other pupils withdrew their girls from school and the townspeople insulted Miss Crandall on the street, she flouted their intolerance by opening a school for colored girls.
Local indignation broke with a roar and a shriek. "Once open the door," warned that local dignitary, Canterbury's town clerk, "and New England will become the Liberia of America." Merchants refused to sell Miss Crandall their produce. Physicians would not call at her school. An old vagrancy law was invoked against her pupils. Public conveyances refused to carry them. Offal was thrown in her well. And an attempt to burn the dwelling which housed her school miscarried only because the sills of the antiquated building were too rotten to ignite. The Connecticut legislature came to the aid of the townsmen with a law prohibiting the establishment of Negro schools without permission from the local selectmen.
Lyman Beecher was in Boston when this trouble began, and was well acquainted with New England feeling. But he thought the situation in Cincinnati was different. The Yankees objected to projects calculated to draw Negroes to communities hitherto unblemished by their presence, whereas in Cincinnati the blacks were already numerous. When the students undertook their Negro education project, Beecher anticipated no trouble from the schools as such. The danger, as he saw it, came from the students' insistence upon treating the colored folk as social equals. Wattles boarded with a colored family. Sometimes the student teachers staved overnight in the city in colored homes. A number of colored girls came out to the seminary in a carriage to interview their instructors, and a student was seen on the street with a colored girl.
With this, resentful rumblings broke out in the city, and the Lane faculty convened the student body to warn them of the dangerous consequences of "carrying the doctrine of intercourse into practical effect." Beecher called Weld into conference to urge him to persuade the students to defer to public sentiment. "Said I," the doctor recalled, "you are taking iust the course to defeat your own object, and prevent yourself from doing good. If you want to teach colored schools, I can fill your pockets with money; but if you will visit in colored families, and walk with them in the streets, you will be overwhelmed." Surely it was not necessary to treat the Negroes as social equals in order to succor them, Beecher implored.
But Weld retorted that the students must live with the colored folk to win their confidence, that to make any distinction in social intercourse because of color was an odious and sinful prejudice, and that someone must move in advance of public sentiment if anything were ever to be done. One night Weld and Beecher were closeted in impassioned argument until two o'clock.
Beecher's forebodings were to be abundantly justified, however, for in May, 1834, some three months after the Lane debates, the Western Monthly Magazine, published in Cincinnati, criticized the Lane students as "precocious undergraduates" and "embryo clergymen" whose "sophomoric declamations" were raising malignant passions and rancorous party spirit, and whose social radicalism deserved the prompt rebuke of public sentiment. As Cincinnati rallied to the battle cry, Weld justified the students in the columns of the Cincinnati Journal. Why should students not examine the subject of slavery, he challenged, and especially ministerial students? Was it not the province of theological seminaries to educate the heart as well as the mind? "Whom does it behoove to keep his heart in contact with the woes and guilt of a perishing world, if not the student who is preparing for the ministry?" It was the duty of theological seminaries to acquaint their students with the moral problems of the age, and free discussion was the way to truth. The editor was ill-advised if he thought to stifle the antislavery impulse by appeals to public prejudice. "Sir," warned Weld, "you have mistaken alike the cause, the age, and the men, if you think to intimidate by threats, or to silence by clamors, or shame by sneers, or put down by authority . . . those who have put their hands to this work. Through the grace of God, the history of the next five years will teach this lesson to the most reluctant learner."
Weld forcefully expressed the spirit of his antislavery band, but it was evident that they were facing trouble. Cincinnati seethed with pent-up prejudice, and there was talk of organizing a march upon the college. Beecher and the faculty took alarm, and, again calling the students together, urged them to bide their time. They were right in their designs, Beecher admitted, but they were too far in advance of public sentiment. "The young men. . . were not guilty of doing wrong," sneered Elizur Wright at Beecher's opposition, "but of doing right TOO SOON."
The students appointed a committee with William T. Allan as chairman to consider the faculty plea, but their conclusion was that they could not modify their stand. The cause of the trouble was malicious gossip about the real character of the students' relations with the Negroes, they contended, and the actions which were scandalizing Cincinnati were exactly the same as those which were commended in missionaries who worked among the blacks in Africa. The students would not renounce the basic tenet of their enterprise--equal treatment of all men according to their character, and regardless of color.
The twelve-weeks' summer vacation was now at hand and with the departure of the students the excitement was expected to die down, so the faculty did not attempt to refute the students' argument. Beecher went East on a money-raising tour; Stowe left on a vacation. James A. Thome and Henry B. Stanton attended the anniversary exercises of the American Antislavery Society in New York City, where their account of the students' activities electrified the meeting.
Weld and a number of other students remained at the seminary, preparing abolition pamphlets and compiling a mailing list of persons to whom to send them. The students continued with their work in the colored schools, and on several occasions colored persons, coming out from the city for consultations with their student instructors, were seen on the college grounds.
It may be that Lane was a way station on the Underground Railroad and that Weld sometimes served as conductor. The evidence--inconclusive to be sure--is in a letter from Huntington Lyman to Weld, written when both of them were old men. "In conclusion," Lyman wrote, after congratulating Weld on his eighty-eighth birthday, "I want to know if you ever used my horse without first asking me. You remember I owned the only horse that was owned in Lane Seminary by a man of my grade. It was understood that that horse might be taken without question by any brother who had on hand 'Business of Egypt.' There was between the Ohio River and the south end of the 'Underground Rail Road' a space over which it behooved us to transmit our commodities with dispatch. We regarded as advisable to send across that stretch not only with great speed but not even to tell each other when we had in hand such 'Business of Egypt.'
"I want you should signalize this your birthday by frank confession," demanded Lyman. "Did you ever use my horse as aforesaid on errand as aforesaid? Don't be afraid. All action for trespass is outlawed. Sometimes I found that my horse had had a sweat. The cause I did not at that day inquire after. It might have been belly ache or it might have been 'Business of Egypt.' We in that day were 'Willingly ignorant.'"
It is regrettable that we do not have Weld's answer respecting this "Business of Egypt."
At any rate, with the faculty dispersed in that summer of 1834, the Lane students could do pretty much as they pleased. In Cincinnati, however, a number of Lane's conservative trustees, hearing rumors of what was taking place, became restive about these dangerous goings on. But in the absence of the faculty they were reluctant to act, and the students continued their propaganda work throughout the summer.
In addition, Weld performed one of his most notable achievements when he enlisted the young Kentuckian, James G. Birney. Weld and Birney had met in Huntsville, Alabama, two years before. Since then their antislavery thinking had diverged. While Weld became a proselytizing abolitionist, Birney had become an active worker for colonization.
Weld's senior by eleven years, Birney was born in Danville, Kentucky, the son of a Scotch-Irish immigrant who had won wealth and social station in Kentucky. The Birneys' winter residence was a brick mansion in Danville, while Woodlawn, their summer home, located half a mile from town, was accounted a bluegrass showplace. Reared in these luxurious surroundings, Birney enjoyed the advantages of wealth. Private tutors and local academies prepared him for Princeton, where he graduated in 1810, going from there to Philadelphia to study law. Generously supplied with money, he lived as became a young blood of the bluegrass, mingling in the best Philadelphia society, wearing the latest fashions, indulging his fondness for fine furniture and table service, and driving a pair of blooded bays sent from the Woodlawn pastures.
Returning to Danville at the age of twenty-three, he opened his own law office, married Agatha McDowell, daughter of a Federal judge and niece of a Kentucky governor, and won election to the Kentucky legislature. The young couple acquired several slaves.
Kentucky was overrun with young political aspirants, and, to better his chances for preferment, Birney bought a plantation near Huntsviile, Alabama. Here the Birneys' bountiful hospitality, combined with the extravagance of fine saddle and driving horses and Birney's propensity to bet on cards and horse races, soon put them in debt. Compelled to mortgage the plantation, Birney moved into Huntsville to practice law in earnest. Here he recouped his fortunes, built a large home, became a respected citizen, and was elected mayor. Forswearing gambling forever, Birney spent his evenings in his garden, pruning his bushes and young trees, hoeing his vegetables, and tying up his vines.
It was here that he became acquainted with Weld, when the young apostle of manual labor visited Doctor Allan. The two men had some ardent discussions of slavery; and Birney may have told Weld how he had been obliged to leave his plantation in charge of an overseer, how he disliked the overseer system, and, indeed, the whole philosophy of slavery.
Soon after Weld's visit Birney sold his plantation, freed his field hands, moved back to Danville, and became an agent of the American Colonization Society. An agent's life was rigorous at best, and for a man of Birney's position to forego the settled comforts of home to perform the duties of a peripatetic agency showed consecration and idealism beyond the ordinary. But Birney took up his duties with zestful relish, traveling through the South to solicit funds and organize auxiliary societies. Yet the more he saw of slavery the more he doubted. Like Weld, he came to see the gradual approach of the colonizationist as ineffective. "If gradual emancipation be insisted on," he wrote, "the conscience of the slave-holder is left undisturbed, and you gain nothing." In the early summer of 1834, Birney visited Lane Seminary to talk over his perplexities with Weld. It was a momentous meeting. On June 10, 1834, Elizur Wright wrote to Beriah Green from the antislavery headquarters office in New York: "It seems that our Dear Br. Weld has had a long confab with Birney, & by the blessing of God, he has renounced his colonization."
It was true. Birney was ready to admit that "colonization has done more to rock the conscience of the Slaveholder into slumber, and to make his slumber soft and peaceful, than all other causes united." He gave up his agency, resigned as vice-president of the Kentucky Colonization Society, and came out four-square for abolition.
During the remainder of the summer he and Weld were in frequent correspondence. Birney prepared a statement of his views on colonization and brought it to Lane Seminary for Weld's and Professor Morgan's suggestions, for Morgan was working hand in glove with the students. The students raised one hundred dollars to have Birney's article published, and Henry B. Stanton took the money to Lexington, where the article was printed as a pamphlet, and remained there to supervise packing and shipping. Weld ordered a thousand copies sent to Cincinnati as soon as possible so that the students who were going home might distribute them during vacation.
On July 21, Birney sent Weld a list of persons in middle and lower Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi who might be persuaded to distribute antislavery tracts. The opposition was in full cry in Danville, he reported, and his abolition views had cost him a chance to teach at Centre College where he had planned to try to win some of the students. Weld was delighted with Birney's spirit, and reported to anti-slavery headquarters that he "throws his whole soul into the cause."
Meanwhile, Weld had troubles of his own, for the executive committee of Lane's board of trustees had cracked down. The moving spirit behind their action was the unloved Professor Biggs, who thought the seminary had become "a reproach and a loathing in the land." Moreover, fifteen of the twenty-six trustees were business or professional men with dealings in the South (seven others were ministers), and if pressure had not already been brought upon them, they were well aware that it soon would be, and that to have the abolition label pasted onto Lane would be disastrous for them. At a special meeting on August 20 the executive committee declared that slavery was no subject for immature minds. It must be approached with "diffidence and discretion," for it had baffled the wisdom of the country's ablest men. No seminary of learning, especially no theological college, should take sides where Christians differed; for such a course would not only lessen the institution's influence and discredit Christian education, but would also warp the students' judgment and unfit their minds for "genial and useful intercourse with mankind." Party spirit, generated too early in life and blended with the acquisition of knowledge, might become a "constitutional disease of the mind extremely difficult of cure and destructive of its future usefulness."
Thus, for the protection of the institution and the good of the student body, the executive committee decreed a ban on all student societies except those designed to further the course of study. Public statements or communication on the part of students in meetings or at meals were prohibited unless prior approval was obtained. Measures would be taken to discourage even private discussion of distracting subjects, and offenders would be punished with expulsion In order that old students as well as those contemplating entrance might be informed of these rules, the committee had them printed in the Cincinnati Daily Gazette.
Weld risked expulsion by continuing his antislavery labors. Birney was pondering what he was best fitted to do. Each wished to counsel with the other, so they arranged a rendezvous.
It was mid-afternoon of a September day when Weld reined up his mount in a forest glade some twenty miles north of the village of Georgetown, Kentucky. He had scarcely halted when, above the murmurs of the forest breeze, he heard the hoofbeats of Birney's horse approaching from the South. As Birney cantered into the clearing and the two men wheeled their horses side by side, the contrast in their persons and accoutrements was striking. Weld's clothes were in their usual disarray, and the submissive cob that carried him had the mark of the livery stable. Birney, on the other hand, was clearly the Southern gentleman. His ruddy cheeks betokened outdoor exercise; his blue eyes, warm, but with a hint of chill, suggested a man of friendly disposition accustomed to use authority. His brows were wide, his nose and chin sharp-cut and regular. Lush sideburns fringed his cheeks. A habit of compressing his straight lips made his expression stem, but it was softened by the delicate lines that crinkled from the corners of his mouth. Although he was only five feet nine inches in height, he was tough-knit; and he bore himself with dignity and self-possession.
Near the meeting place was "a quiet house of entertainment" to which the two men repaired and where they remained until late the following afternoon, discussing the antislavery movement in all its aspects. Weld was resolved to persevere in antislavery work, and advised Bimey to begin work in Kentucky, either as an agent or an antislavery editor, for hostility to abolition seemed less intense in Kentucky than elsewhere in the slave states. "We parted much refreshed," wrote Birney in his diary, "as I trust on both sides. I have seen in no man such a rare combination of great intellectual powers with Christian simplicity. He must make a powerful impression on the public mind of the country, if he lives ten years."
Returning to Lane Seminary, Weld counseled the students to ignore the new rules. They would not become effective until ratified by the whole board in any event, and it would not meet until October. Much could be done before then.
Besides his "Letter on Colonization," Birney had prepared a "Letter to the Ministerial Elders of the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky," which he sent to Weld to be printed, inasmuch as his Lexington printer had been threatened with violence if he should ever use his press for antislavery purposes again. James Allan came down from Lane to bring Birney three hundred copies, and reported that the Lane students, well supplied with ammunition, were mailing out their tracts with intensified zeal.
Antislavery circles were agog at what Weld had done in bringing Birney into the movement. Elizur Wright wrote to an antislavery agent, Amos A. Phelps, that Birney was "a chosen vessel." He was ready "to embark his all, indeed he has done it already. He will labor in Kentucky and the whole of that region, either as our agent, or as an individual, as upon a little experience of the effect of his debut will be thought best. But he must be supported. In taking the stand he does, he alienates a rich Father, gives up a lucrative profession, sacrifices a large property which was considered his." Birney had a large family and Weld had recommended that his salary be no less than fifteen hundred dollars a year. In the present state of the national society's finances, this sum must be raised by private subscription. The ever-generous Arthur Tappan had promised a contribution, and Wright was confident he could raise the rest of it.
Meanwhile, things went on as before at Lane. President Beecher and Professor Stowe were still in the East, and Professor Morgan, who was friendly to the students' enterprise, was also away now. Indeed, the only professor on the grounds was Biggs. Dismayed by the prospect of being throttled in his antislavery efforts, Weld wrote to Beecher to hurry home. The Reverend Asa Mahan, the only trustee friendly to the students' cause, added his entreaty to Weld's. Beecher did start west, but at Columbus he turned northeast to Granville, then went back East to renew his money-raising efforts. He could do but one work at a time, he explained in answer to Weld's plea, and he hoped the students would do nothing rash until he returned. He claimed later that he could have composed the difficulties, had he been on the ground; yet he seems deliberately to have stayed away, adhering perhaps to the belief he had expressed when the students first began their antislavery agitation, that "if we and our friends do not amplify the evil by too much alarm .... the evil will subside and pass away."
But the situation had passed beyond all hope of self-solution. On October 6, the trustees met, ratified the action of the executive committee by a vote of fourteen to three, and instructed the faculty to enforce the new rules. Professor Morgan was dismissed, thereby raising the issue of academic freedom, and Weld and William Allan were threatened with expulsion.
At the opening of the fall term the students assembled in the chapel and sent a committee to ask the faculty to meet with the student body and interpret the new code. Beecher, Stowe, and Biggs undertook to do so, whereupon another committee was sent to ask if students were to be allowed to discuss the new rules among themselves. They were not, was the reply; so a third committee asked if students might discuss the propriety of remaining in the seminary. This also was declared to be under the ban. According to Asa Mahan's account: "One of the leading students now arose, and remarked, that one privilege remained to them, namely, to say, by rising to their feet, whether they would, or would not, continue members of the Institution under existing circumstances. For himself, . . . the most solemn convictions of duty to his God, his conscience, his country, and the race, constrained him to say, that he could no longer continue a student of Lane Seminary."
Weld was probably the student incendiary. At any rate he was the author of a statement of the students' position, which fifty-one of them signed. Then all the protestants withdrew from school. Two went to Auburn Seminary, four to the Yale Divinity School, two to Western Theological Seminary at Allegheny Town, near Pittsburgh, and one to Miami College. Four "confessed their error" and requested reinstatement. The remainder set up a school of their own at nearby Cumminsville and undertook to teach one another while they continued their efforts with the Cincinnati Negroes. Weld drew drafts on Arthur Tappan for their support, and Salmon P. Chase, a young Cincinnati attorney who had been stirred by the students' antislavery endeavors, persuaded his brother-in-law, James Ludlow, to allow the students the use of a large house. Beecher eventually persuaded the trustees to withdraw their resolutions against Weld and Allan and to modify their regulations in some degree. Then he pleaded with the students to return, arguing that they had played into the hands of Professor Biggs, who wished to be rid of them.
A justification of the trustees' action, signed by Beecher, Biggs, and Stowe, placed the blame for all the trouble upon Weld, whose abolition obsession had made him reckless of all consequences, "even though it were the prosperity of the seminary itself." "But while we feel called upon to say this," Weld's accusers continued, "justice and affection require us to render at the same time, a willing and melancholy homage to the talents, and piety, and moral courage, and energy of the individual, while we lament that want of early guidance and subordination which might have qualified his mind to act safely by consultation in alliance with other minds, instead of relying with a perilous confidence in his own sufficiency. We regard it as an eminent instance of the monomania, which not unfrequently is the resuIt of the concentration of a powerful intellect and burning zeal upon any one momentous subject to the exclusion of others; and while our high expectations and warm affections have been disappointed in him and others of our young men, it is not without hope and daily prayer, that the past may suffice, and that wiser counsels and more auspicious movements may characterize their future course."
Weld no longer faced the threat of expulsion, but he had been soundly spanked, and it was clear that his antislavery usefulness at Lane was at an end. On October 7, 1834, he resigned, and at once enlisted as a full-time agent of the American Antislavery Societv. Elizur Wright wrote to the Reverend Amos A. Phelps that in Cincinnati Weld was now accused of going to Lane designedly to stir up trouble. "Horrible crime!" Wright hooted. "Marvellous foreknowledge! They think the rest of the 'boys' now Weld has left them, as soon as cold weather comes, 'will be glad to get back.'"
But the students were a stubborn, hard-set lot. And to make them even more steadfast, now, in the very hour of their extremity, they were about to be offered a chance to enter a new college on their own terms.
Thus, at Lane, as would so often be the case, efforts at repression merely served to feed the antislavery fires. The Lane rebels were more resolved than ever to persevere in antislavery work. The Lane troubles publicized the abolition cause throughout the West. Indeed, the repercussions echoed all over the North.
The president of Amherst College, learning that an abolition society had been organized on his campus, challenged the members to declare themselves, and was startled when fifty of his "very best young men" came forward. He advised them to disband their organization and hinted at punitive measures if they refused. In 1835 some fifty students left Phillips Andover Seminary when they were refused permission to organize an antislavery society. A student society at Hamilton College was dissolved by the faculty. Some students left Marietta College when expression of antislavery sentiment was suppressed. At Hanover College in Indiana the faculty tried to discourage antislavery expression without prohibiting it. A student abolitionist was dismissed from Granville, the present Denison. The president of Miami was compelled to resign by antiabolition trustees. Charles Follen, professor of German literature at Harvard, was not reappointed because of his abolitionist activities.
The student secession cost Lane Seminary dearly. The Tappans fulfilled their commitments but would give the institution no further aid. On January 20, 1838, Arthur Tappan wrote to Beecher: "I thank you for the particulars respecting your Seminary and regret that I cannot feel any sympathy in the happiness you express in its present and anticipated prosperity."
As was to be the case in every attempt to quiet antislavery agitation, the controversy raised the issue of free speech. The Lane students justified their defiance of the faculty on that ground, and antislavery papers made it their rallying cry. The New York Evangelist asked: "In what age do we live? and in what country?" The Liberator declared that Lane Seminary must now be looked upon "as strictly a Bastile of oppression--a spiritual Inquisition." With the Lane debates and the ensuing troubles, what in the West up to this time had been merely a harmless, drifting cloud, now began to assume the forbidding aspect of a thunderhead.
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