Weld, Theodore Dwight

Weld, Theodore Dwight,

1803–95, American abolitionist, b. Hampton, Conn. In 1825 his family moved to upstate New York, and he entered Hamilton College. While in college he became a disciple of the evangelist Charles G. FinneyFinney, Charles Grandison,
1792–1875, American evangelist, theologian, and educator, b. Warren, Conn. Licensed to the Presbyterian ministry in 1824, he had phenomenal success as a revivalist in the Eastern states, converting many who became noted abolitionists.
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 and was influenced by Charles Stuart, a retired British army officer who urged Weld to enlist in the cause of black emancipation. While studying for the ministry at Oneida Institute he traveled about lecturing on the virtues of manual labor, temperance, and moral reform. After 1830 he became one of the leaders of the antislavery movement working with Arthur TappanTappan, Arthur
, 1786–1865, American abolitionist, b. Northampton, Mass. He made a fortune in the dry-goods business in New York City and with his brother and partner Lewis Tappan gave generously of his time and money to various causes, especially to the antislavery
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 and Lewis TappanTappan, Lewis,
1788–1873, American abolitionist, b. Northampton, Mass. He became a partner in his brother Arthur's New York mercantile house in 1828 and in 1841 founded the first agency for rating commercial credit in the United States.
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, New York philanthropists, James G. BirneyBirney, James Gillespie
, 1792–1857, American abolitionist, b. Danville, Ky. He practiced law at Danville from 1814 to 1818, before he moved to Alabama, where he served one term in the state legislature.
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, Gamaliel BaileyBailey, Gamaliel,
1807–59, American abolitionist editor, b. Mt. Holly, N.J. In 1837 he succeeded James Birney as editor and publisher of the Philanthropist at Cincinnati.
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, Angelina GrimkéGrimké, Angelina Emily
, 1805–79, American abolitionist and advocate of women's rights, b. Charleston, S.C. Converted to the Quaker faith by her elder sister Sarah Moore Grimké, she became an abolitionist in 1835, wrote
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, and Sarah GrimkéGrimké, Sarah Moore,
1792–1873, American abolitionist and advocate of women's rights, b. Charleston, S.C. She came from a distinguished Southern family. On a visit to Philadelphia, Sarah joined the Society of Friends.
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. He married Angelina Grimké in 1838. Weld chose Lane Seminary at Cincinnati, Ohio, for the ministerial training of other Finney converts and studied there until the famous antislavery debates he organized (1834) among the students led to his dismissal. Almost the entire student body then requested dismissal, and it was from these theological students that Weld and Henry B. Stanton selected agents for the American Anti-Slavery Society. The "Seventy," as the agents were called, gave character and direction to the antislavery movement and successfully spread the abolitionist gospel throughout the North. From 1836 to 1840, Weld worked at the New York office of the antislavery society, serving as an editor of the society's paper, the Emancipator, and contributing antislavery articles to newspapers and periodicals. He also directed the national campaign for sending antislavery petitions to Congress and assisted John Quincy AdamsAdams, John Quincy,
1767–1848, 6th President of the United States (1825–29), b. Quincy (then in Braintree), Mass.; son of John Adams and Abigail Adams and father of Charles Francis Adams (1807–86).
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 when Congress tried Adams for reading petitions in violation of the gag rule. While in Washington he advised the Northern antislavery Whigs, many of whom (e.g., Ben Wade, Thaddeus Stevens) were converted to the cause by Weld or one of his agents. After 1844 he retired from public participation in the movement to found a school, Eaglewood, near Raritan, N.J. During the Civil War, at the urging of William Lloyd GarrisonGarrison, William Lloyd,
1805–79, American abolitionist, b. Newburyport, Mass. He supplemented his limited schooling with newspaper work and in 1829 went to Baltimore to aid Benjamin Lundy in publishing the Genius of Universal Emancipation.
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, he came out of retirement to speak for the Union cause and campaign for Republican candidates. Most famous of his writings (none was published under his own name) was American Slavery As It Is (1839), on which Harriet Beecher Stowe partly based Uncle Tom's Cabin and which is regarded as second only to that work in its influence on the antislavery movement. Many historians regard Weld as the most important figure in the abolitionist movement, surpassing even Garrison, but his passion for anonymity long made him an unknown figure in American history.


See Letters of Theodore Dwight Weld, Angelina Grimké Weld and Sarah Grimké 1822–1844, ed. by G. H. Barnes and D. L. Dumond (2 vol., 1934); biography by B. P. Thomas (1950); G. H. Barnes, The Antislavery Impulse, 1830–1844 (1933).

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Weld, Theodore Dwight

(1803–95) abolitionist; born in Hampton, Conn. After attending Hamilton College and the Oneida Institute, which stressed manual labor in education, he was influenced by Presbyterian evangelist Charles Grandison Finney to devote himself to promoting reforms and he went to study at the Lane Seminary in Cincinnati (1834). For about ten years thereafter, as an ardent abolitionist, he gave forceful lectures, trained workers for the American Anti-Slavery Society, and wrote influential pamphlets, although, being very retiring, he permitted nothing to be published under his own name. He was an adviser to an antislavery bloc in Congress in the early 1840s and recruited prominent people to abolitionism. He and his wife later opened two schools in New Jersey that stressed the importance of manual labor; many abolitionists' children went there. After the Civil War he became a crusader for women's rights.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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Weld, Theodore Dwight, Angelina Grimke Weld, and Sarah Grimke.