|Ohio Revisited: Belmont County, Part 08 -- Benjamin Lundy: The Father of Abolitionism.|
by Henry Howe.
St. Clairsville is identified with the history of Benjamin Lundy, who has been called the "Father of Abolitionism" for he first set in motion those moral forces which eventually resulted in the overthrow of American slavery. He was of Quaker parents, and was born on a farm in Hardwick, Sussex County, N.J., 4 January 1789. When nineteen years old, working as an apprentice to a saddler in Wheeling, his attention was first directed to the horrors of slavery by the constant sight of gangs of slaves driven in chains through the streets on their way to the South, for Wheeling was the great thoroughfare from Virginia for transporting slaves to the cotton plantations. He entered at this time in his diary: "I heard the wail of the captive; I felt his pang of distress, and the iron entered my soul."
Lundy married, settled in St. Clairsville, working at his trade. But he soon began his life-work -- the abolition of slavery. In later years he learned the printing trade to better accomplish his objective.
He formed an anti-slavery society here in 1815 when twenty-six years old, called the Union Humane Society, which grew from six to near five hundred members, and wrote an appeal to philanthropists throughout the Union to organize similar cooperating societies. He had written numerous articles for The Philanthropist, a small paper edited at Mt. Pleasant, in Jefferson County, by Charles Osborne, a Friend, and then sold his saddlery stock and business at a ruinous sacrifice to join Osborne and increase the efficiency of the paper.
In 1819 he moved to St. Louis where the Missouri question -- the admission of Missouri into the Union with or without slavery -- was attracting national attention, and devoted himself to an exposition of the evils of slavery in the newspapers of that State and Illinois. In 1822 he walked back all the way to Ohio to find that Osborne had sold out his paper. Thereupon he started another, a monthly, with six subscribers, which he had printed at Steubenville. It was called the Genius of Universal Emancipation. This was soon moved to Jonesboro, East Tennessee, and in 1824 to Baltimore. To get to Baltimore, he walked, holding anti-slavery meetings on his way -- in the states of South and North Carolina and Virginia. These meetings mainly were in Quaker communities, where he also helped form abolition societies.
In 1828 he visited Boston and through his lectures there enlisted Wm. Lloyd Garrison in the abolition cause and engaged him to become his associate editor. By this time Lundy had formed -- by lecturing and correspondence -- more than one hundred societies for the "gradual though total abolition of slavery."
In the winter of 1828-29 he was assaulted and nearly killed in Baltimore by Austin Woolfolk, a slave-dealer. He was driven out of Baltimore and finally established his paper in Philadelphia, where his property subsequently was burned in 1838 by the pro-slavery mob that set fire to Pennsylvania Hall. The following winter he died in La Salle, Illinois, where he was about to re-establish his paper.
In his personal appearance Lundy gave no indication of the powerful force of character he possessed. He was about five feet five inches tall, and very slender. He was also hard of hearing. He was gentle and mild and persuasive, and showed pity, not only for the slave, but for the slave-holders; he always treated the slave-holders with the kindliest consideration.
Wm. Lloyd Garrison, his co-laborer, wrote of him: "Instead of being able to withstand the tide of public opinion it would at first seem doubtful whether he could sustain a temporary conflict with the winds of heaven. And yet he has explored nineteen of the [then] twenty-four states -- from the green mountains of Vermont to the banks of the Mississippi -- multiplied anti-slavery societies in every quarter, put every petition in motion relative to the extinction of slavery in the District of Columbia, everywhere awakened the slumbering sympathies of the people, and began a work, the completion of which will be the salvation of his country. His heart is of gigantic size. Every inch of him is alive with power. He combines the meekness of Howard with the boldness of Luther.
"Within a few months he has travelled about 2,400 miles, of which upwards of 1,600 were performed on foot, during which time he has held nearly fifty public meetings. Rivers and mountains vanish in his path; midnight finds him wending his solitary way over an unfrequented road; the sun is anticipated in his rising. Never was moral sublimity of character better illustrated."
This entry is adapted from Henry Howe's HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS OF OHIO (2 vols., 1907). The book has been reedited, updated, and restructured for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This entry is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. This entry may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that the Stratton House Inn iteration of this entry does NOT include the subject headings assigned the entry for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.
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