|"I shall never forget the first time I ever saw or heard Lucretia Mott. . . . In a few moments after she began to speak, I saw before me no more a woman, but a glorified presence bearing a message of light and love. Whenever and wherever I have listened to her, my heart has always been made better and my spirit raised by her words; and in speaking thus for myself I am sure I am expressing the experience of thousands."|
~ Frederick Douglass
|Thomas and Anna Folger Coffin|
Her ancestors had lived on the island since its first settlement by white men in 1659, and had been people of standing in every generation. Through her father, the seventeenth child of Benjamin Coffin, she was descended from two of the original purchasers of Nantucket, Tristam Coffyn, Sr., and Thomas Macy; and on the side of her mother, Anna Folger, youngest daughter of William and Ruth Folger, from Peter Folger, of " Mather's Vineyard," another of these twenty "early proprietors."
. . . It has generally been supposed that the first settlers of Nantucket were driven from their homes on the mainland by religious persecution . . . but others believe that they emigrated thither solely with the object of bettering their material condition. . . .
|Island of Nantucket|
In 1779, when Thomas Coffin had obtained the command of his first ship, he married his neighbor and playmate, Anna Folger, he being twenty-two years old, and she just seventeen. They were both consistent members of the Society of Friends, as their fathers had been before them for several generations. Thomas Coffin, although a sailor from his boyhood, was a courteous and refined man, of unusually studious habits, and strong religious feeling. His most marked characteristic was that of unwavering integrity. In appearance he was intelligent, rather than handsome ; in manner kindly, though somewhat formal. Anna Folger, the youngest of six sisters, sometimes called by the townspeople " Bill Folger's tory daughters," was a woman conspicuous throughout her life for great energy, keen wit, and unfailing good sense.Benjamin Franklin was also a descendant of Peter Folger, and Lucretia liked to refer to him as "Cousin Benjamin."
The Coffin's first child, Sarah, was disabled. Lucretia helped her mother with the younger children: Elizabeth ("Eliza"), Thomas, Maria, Lydia (died as an infant) and Martha.
During childhood was made actively useful to my mother, who, in the absence of my father, on a long voyage, was engaged in mercantile business, often going to Boston and purchasing goods in exchange for oil and candles, the staple of the island. The exercise of women's talents in this line, as well as the general care which devolved upon them in the absence of their husbands, tended to develop their intellectual powers and strengthen them mentally and physically.Her father was often away on the ship, sailing as far away as China.
I remember how our mothers were employed, while our fathers were at sea. The mothers with the small children around them — ’twas not customary to have nurses then — kept small groceries and sold provisions, that they might make something in the absence of their husbands. At that time it required some money and more courage to go to Boston — they were obliged to go to that city — make their trades, exchange their oils and candles for dry goods, and all the varieties of a country store, set their own price, keep their own accounts, and with all of this, have very little help in the family, to which they must discharge their duties. Look at the heads of these women; they can mingle with men; they are not triflers, they have intelligent subjects of conversation.
— Woman’s Rights Convention, Cleveland, 1853Anna Davis Hallowell wrote that
Captain Coffin's last cruise was made in 1800, when his little daughter Lucretia was seven years old. He sailed, as commander and owner, in the ship Trial . . . in quest of seal-skins to take to China and exchange for silks, nankeens, china, and tea.
He bought some in the Straits of Magellan, and forwarded them in another vessel bound for China, going himself in search of a larger cargo. When he had been out a year, the Trial was seized by the Spaniards off the Pacific coast of South America, for alleged violation of neutrality, and taken to Valparaiso. Captain Coffin undertook his own defense in the Spanish courts, and obtained some favorable decisions; but after much delay, finding that he could get no redress, and that there was no chance of regaining his vessel, he left Valparaiso, crossed the Andes, and found passage home from a port in Brazil.
When he finally reached home, after an absence of three years, he learned that his family had heard nothing of him for more than a year, and had believed him lost. His children loved to recall their delight in his return; how they clustered about him to hear him recount, over and over again, the wonderful story of his adventures ; the amusement he took in teaching them some of the Spanish phrases that he had learned, and in requiring them to bid him "good morning " and " good night " in Spanish (our grand- mother, more than seventy years afterwards, could repeat these words as if she had learned them the day before); and his warm-hearted defense of the Catholics of South America, because of the hospitality shown him by a kind Catholic family during his long stay in Valparaiso.
It is also interesting to know that, notwithstanding the loss of his vessel and cargo, the seal-skins sent to China with his friend had made such good returns that the voyage was considered profitable.
. . . This unfortunate experience of Captain Coffin's was his last as a seafaring man.
|Massachusetts, with Nantucket Island in red|
My sympathy was early enlisted for the poor slave by the class books read in our schools, and the pictures of the slave-ships as presented by Clarkson."In later years she often repeated a description of the horrors of the "middle passage," which she had learned from the school book, "Mental Improvement by Priscilla Wakefield." It was written by Thomas Clarkson, and ended with the words, "Humanity shudders at your account."
The Nine Partners Meeting and School was known to coordinate the Underground Railroad activities in Dutchess and Columbia counties. She learned about the boycott of products that were made with slave labor. One of her favorite poets, William Cowper, wrote a poem, "Pity for Poor Africans."
|Interior of Nine Partners Meeting House|
"At fifteen, one of the teachers was leaving the school, I was chosen as an assistant, in her place. Pleased with the promotion, I strove hard to give satisfaction, and was gratified, on leaving the school, to have an offer of a situation as teacher, if I was disposed to remain, and informed that my services should entitle another sister to her education without charge. My father was, at that time, in successful business in Boston; but with his views of the importance of training a woman to usefulness, he and my mother gave their consent to another year being devoted to that institution.
". . . The unequal condition of women in society also early impressed my mind. Learning, while at school, that the charge for the education of girls was the same as that for boys, and that when they became teachers, women received but half as much as men for their services, the injustice of this was so apparent, that I early resolved to claim for my sex all that an impartial Creator had bestowed."In 1809, The Coffin family moved to Philadelphia Pennsylvania, where Thomas Coffin entered into business, investing all his capital in a factory for the manufacture of cut nails.
Mott was 68 years old when the Civil War began; she and her husband were living in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in April 1861.
|Pine Street Meeting House|
These trials, in early life, were not without their good effect in disciplining the mind, and leading it to set a just estimate on worldly pleasures. I, however, always loved the good, in childhood desired to do the right, and had no faith in the generally received idea of human depravity.Their second daughter, Maria, was born in March 1818. Late in the year 1818, Lucretia Mott accompanied Sarah Zane, a minister in the Society of Friends, in a religious visit to Virginia. They travelled in Sarah Zane's private carriage, and together attended many meetings. In one of her letters, Lucretia Mott wrote:
12th mo. 15th, 1819. I have not many fine traveller's stories to relate. We took the direct road to Winchester, and after a pleasant journey of six days, arrived safely, having met with one accident, the breaking of our axle-tree, which detained us a few hours. The country through which we passed was most of it under fine cultivation, and in some places, particularly near Harper's Ferry, the scenery was romantic. . . . It was the time for their Quarterly Meeting at Hopewell, six miles from Winchester, which we attended, and there met with Edward Stabler and wife, and many others. He is one of the very interesting men. We lodged at the same house, and sat up very late to hear him talk. The sight of the poor slaves was indeed affecting: though in that neighborhood, we were told their situation was rendered less deplorable, by kind treatment from their masters.
My sympathy was early enlisted for the poor slave, by the class-books read in our schools, and the pictures of the slave-ship, as published by Clarkson. The ministry of Elias Hicks and others, on the subject of the unrequited labor of slaves, and their example in refusing the products of slave labor, all had their effect in awakening a strong feeling in their behalf.James Mott wrote to his parents in February 1820:
I have within a few weeks thought I should like to be rich, not to hoard it up, but to relieve the necessities of my suffering fellow creatures; for many there are in our city, who are in want of food to sustain life. I have sometimes felt deterred from visiting them, for want of ability to give much relief; for what is more affecting, or more humbling, than to see helpless children crying around an emaciated mother for bread? To attempt a description of my feelings in witnessing such scenes would be impossible, and indeed to you, unnecessary, for you can realize it. It has, however, one effect which may be useful, to make me number my blessings and be thankful that I have food and raiment As this comes to be the case, a disposition that I have sometimes felt of repining at my lot, will be done away; and that it may be, I do at such seasons much desire. With much love to all, Jas. Mott, Jr.
At twenty-five years of age, surrounded with a little family and many cares, I felt called to a more public life of devotion to duty, and engaged in the ministry in our Society, receiving every encouragement from those in authority, until a separation among us, in 1827, when my convictions led me to adhere to the sufficiency of the light within us, resting on truth as authority, rather than 'taking authority for truth.' The popular doctrine of human depravity never commended itself to my reason or conscience. I 'searched the Scriptures daily,' finding a construction of the text wholly different from that which was pressed upon our acceptance. The highest evidence of a sound faith being the practical life of the Christian, I have felt a far greater interest in the moral movements of our age than in any theological discussion.
|Anna Folger Coffin|
When Peter Pelham returned to Philadelphia in November 1824, he and Martha Coffin were married. Their love had survived over a year of separation, and Anna Coffin no longer objected to their marriage. The Quaker meeting did object, however, and Martha was expelled for marrying a non-Quaker. This contributed to her lifelong estrangement from organized religion. Martha moved with her husband to a frontier fort at Tampa Bay, Florida. On their trip south, their sloop (ironically named Hope) was wrecked off the Florida coast, and they were stranded for two weeks on an offshore island. Once she finally reached Tampa Bay, Martha found the only residents were 200 soldiers, a few officers' wives, and an abundant supply of insects, wild hogs, and alligators. Nevertheless, she wrote many years later that "During my residence in Florida, I enjoyed the escape from conventionalities that continually interfere with one's freedom of action." Martha's daughter, Marianna, was born the following year. Lucretia also gave birth to a daughter that same year: Elizabeth was born in December 1825.
Peter Pelham died in 1826, leaving Martha a nineteen-year-old widow with an infant child. To support herself and her daughter, she moved to upstate New York to teach painting and writing at a Quaker school for girls.
The Philadelphia Free Produce Society was founded by James Mott and other Quakers to boycott products made with the use of enslaved labor, and sell only products made with labor from free people. Most abolitionists did not see the free produce movement as being vital to the cause. A few dedicated proponents were able to stay completely away from slave goods but a number of other abolitionists endorsed the concept only when convenient. Many more ignored the issue altogether. The movement never grew large enough to gain the benefit of the economies of scale, and the cost of "free produce" was always higher than competing goods.
|Cherry Street Meeting House, Philadelphia|
|Martha Coffin Wright|
In April 1833, the Mott's oldest daughter, Anna, married Edward Hopper, the son of Isaac Hopper. They lived with James and Lucretia during the early years of their marriage. Edward Hopper was an abolitionist who eventually became a prominent Philadelphia lawyer, known for his defense of escaped slaves. In December 1833, James Mott and more than 60 abolitionists met in Philadelphia and founded the American Anti-Slavery Society. Devoted to immediate and uncompensated emancipation for African-American slaves, the members of the society drafted the following manifesto to articulate clearly their goals:
Whereas the Most High God “hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth,” and hath commanded them to love their neighbors as themselves; and whereas, our National Existence is based upon this principle, as recognized in the Declaration of Independence, “that all mankind are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”; and whereas, after the lapse of nearly sixty years, since the faith and honor of the American people were pledged to this avowal, before Almighty God and the World, nearly one-sixth part of the nation are held in bondage by their fellow citizens and whereas, Slavery is contrary to the principles of natural justice, of our republican form of government, and of the Christian religion, and is destructive of the prosperity of the country, while it is endangering the peace, union, and liberties of the States; and whereas, we believe it the duty and interest of the masters immediately to emancipate their slaves, and that no scheme of expatriation, either voluntary or by compulsion, can remove this great and increasing evil; and whereas, we believe that it is practicable, by appeals to the consciences, hearts, and interests of the people, to awaken a public sentiment throughout the nation that will be opposed to the continuance of Slavery in any part of the Republic, and by effecting the speedy abolition of Slavery, prevent a general convulsion; and whereas, we believe we owe it to the oppressed, to our fellow-citizens who hold slaves, to our whole country, to posterity, and to God, to do all that is lawfully in our power to bring about the extinction of Slavery, we do hereby agree, with a prayerful reliance on the Divine aid, to form ourselves into a society. . .
The objects of this Society are the entire abolition of Slavery in the United States. While it admits that each State, in which Slavery exists, has, by the Constitution of the United States, the exclusive right to legislate in regard to its abolition in said State, it shall aim to convince all our fellow-citizens, by arguments addressed to their understandings and consciences, that Slaveholding is a heinous crime in the sight of God, and that the duty, safety, and best interests of all concerned, require its immediate abandonment, without expatriation.
. . . This Society shall aim to elevate the character and condition of the people of color, by encouraging their intellectual, moral, and religious improvement, and by removing public prejudice, that thus they may, according to their intellectual and moral worth, share an equality with the whites, of civil and religious privileges; but this Society will never, in any way, countenance the oppressed in vindicating their rights by resorting to physical force.
. . . Any person who consents to the principles of this Constitution, who contributes to the funds of this Society, and is not a Slaveholder, may be a member of this Society, and shall be entitled to vote at the meetings.They based their opposition to slavery both on the principle of equality as stated in the Declaration of Independence and on the commands of Biblical scripture. Maintaining that slavery was a grievous sin, the society championed nonviolence and racial equality. Its membership included several African Americans, although women from both races were excluded from the group. The convention met at the Adelphi Building in Philadelphia; there were 62 delegates, of which 21 were Quakers. In addition to James Mott, founders and members included William Lloyd Garrison, Arthur and Lewis Tappan, Frederick Douglass, Theodore Weld, Robert Purvis, James Birney, Henry Highland Garnet, James Forten, Charles Lennox Remond, and Wendell Phillips. The society's headquarters was in New York City. From 1840 to 1870 it published a weekly newspaper, the National Anti-Slavery Standard. James Miller McKim, who was in training to become a Presbyterian minister, met Lucretia Mott at this conference, and began a long relationship in which he considered her a mentor and exemplar.
William Lloyd Garrison became acquainted with the Motts in the early 1830s; he later wrote a letter about the hospitality he had enjoyed in their home:
I was indebted to those inestimable friends, James and Lucretia Mott, for a homelike reception, affectionate and delightful. My obligations to them, every since our acquaintance more than nineteen years ago, have been constantly accumulating, and my regard for them amounts to unfeigned veneration. When I was a mere novice in the anti-slavery cause, long before I became identified with it, they were active co-workers with the intrepid pioneer, Benjamin Lundy, for the abolition of slavery.Lucretia's sister, Martha, first became directly exposed to the abolitionist movement during her 1833 visit to Lucretia Mott's home in Philadelphia, where she met William Lloyd Garrison. Along with Lucretia, Martha attended several sessions of the founding meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society, an experience she described in a letter to her husband. Until this time, Martha had been undecided about the relative merits of abolition and colonization, the movement that proposed gradual elimination of slavery by purchasing slaves and returning them to Africa. Her exposure to Garrison and his followers, including black abolitionists born in America who had no interest in going to Africa, convinced her that abolition was the proper course.
Garrison described a sermon by Lucretia Mott in the 1830s:
She dwelt with emphasis and power upon the wide difference which exists between a ceremonial religion and practical godliness . . . She urged upon all the duty of actively laboring in the reforms of the age, especially that of anti-slavery - no matter what it might cost, no matter from what quarter it might be condemned, whether from the high seats of any ecclesiastical conclave. Her position on that occasion was one of great moral sublminity, showing that she was wholly dead to that fear of men which bringeth a snare.Amidst social persecution by abolition opponents and pain from dyspepsia, Mott continued her work for the abolitionist cause. She managed their household budget to extend hospitality to guests, including fugitive slaves, and donate to charities. Mott was praised for her ability to maintain her household while contributing to the cause. In the words of one editor, "She is proof that it is possible for a woman to widen her sphere without deserting it." Mott and other female abolitionists also organized fairs to raise awareness and revenue, providing much of the funding for the anti-slavery movement. Daniel Neall introduced the Hutchinson family singers to Lucretia by saying, "This is Mrs. Lucretia Mott . . . Mrs. Mott's a great abolitionist, but she's a fine cook, too."
|The Hutchinson Family Singers|
John Quincy Adams spent his 70th birthday in Philadelphia, and wrote in his diary on July 11, 1836:
After dinner, Benjamin Lundy came at six, and I walked with him to the house of his friend, James Mott, No. 136 North Ninth street, where there was a large tea and evening party of men and women — all of the Society of Friends. I had free conversation with them till between ten and eleven o'clock, upon slavery, the abolition of slavery, and other topics; of all of which the only exceptionable part was the undue proportion of talking assumed by me, and the indiscretion and vanity in which I indulged myself. Lucretia Mott, the mistress of the house, wife of James Mott, is a native of the island of Nantucket, and had heard of my visit there last September. She is sensible and lively, and an abolitionist of the most intrepid school.Harriet Martineau, the English writer, was in Philadelphia in 1836; she became acquainted with Lucretia and wrote about her visit to the Cherry Street Meeting House:
Her noble countenance was radiant as the morning; her soft voice though low, was so firm that she was heard to the farthest corner, and her little sermon as philosophical as it was devout; Send for thy light and thy truth was her test. She spoke gratefully of intellectual light as a guide to the spiritual truth, and anticipated and prayed for an ultimate universal diffusing of both.
Lucretia Mott attended all three national Anti-Slavery Conventions of American Women in 1837, 1838, and 1839. In 1837, there was a controversial resolution "relating to social intercourse with our colored brethren." Mott had supported the resolution, that
it is the duty of abolitionists to identify themselves with these oppressed Americans, by sitting with them in places of worship, by appearing with them in our streets, by giving them our countenance in steam-boats and stages, by visiting them at their homes and encouraging them to visit us, receiving them as we do our white fellow citizens.
I learnt with great satisfaction. . . that the Pennsylvania Hall Association have erected a large building in your city, wherein liberty and equality of civil rights can be freely discussed, and the evils of slavery fearlessly portrayed. . . . I rejoice that , in the city of Philadelphia, the friends of free discussion have erected a Hall for its unrestrained exercise.Free speech was not supported by supporters of slavery and racism: on Tuesday morning notices were found throughout the city, which called upon "citizens who entertain a proper respect for the right of property," and urged them to "interfere, forcibly if they must, and prevent the violation of these pledges [the preservation of the Constitution of the United States], heretofore held sacred." Despite the growing mob outside the hall, the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women met, as scheduled, on that Tuesday morning.
On the morning of the following day, men began to gather around the building, "prowling about the doors, examining the gas-pipes, and talking in an 'incendiary' manner to groups which they collected around them in the street." Later in the day they became more unruly, and during the evening's meeting, while William Lloyd Garrison was introducing Maria Chapman to the audience of more than 3,000 people, a mob broke into the building, shouting. The mob left the interior of the building, only to disrupt the meeting from outside. Rocks came crashing in through the windows while Chapman spoke; the shouting from outside overwhelmed her voice.
. . . Is it curiosity merely, or a deep sympathy with the perishing slave, that has brought this large audience together? [A yell from the mob without the building.] Those voices without ought to awaken and call out our warmest sympathies. Deluded beings! "they know not what they do." They know not that they are undermining their own rights and their own happiness, temporal and eternal.
Do you ask, "what has the North to do with slavery?" Hear it -- hear it. Those voices without tell us that the spirit of slavery is here, and has been roused to wrath by our abolition speeches and conventions: for surely liberty would not foam and tear herself with rage, because her friends are multiplied daily, and meetings are held in quick succession to set forth her virtues and extend her peaceful kingdom.
This opposition shows that slavery has done its deadliest work in the hearts of our citizens. Do you ask, then, "what has the North to do?" I answer, cast out first the spirit of slavery from your own hearts, and then lend your aid to convert the South. Each one present has a work to do, be his or her situation what it may, however limited their means, or insignificant their supposed influence. The great men of this country will not do this work; the church will never do it. A desire to please the world, to keep the favor of all parties and of all conditions, makes them dumb on this and every other unpopular subject. They have become worldly-wise, and therefore God, in his wisdom, employs them not to carry on his plans of reformation and salvation. He hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak to overcome the mighty.
As a Southerner I feel that it is my duty to stand up here to-night and bear testimony against slavery. I have seen it -- I have seen it. I know it has horrors that can never be described. I was brought up under its wing: I witnessed for many years its demoralizing influences, and its destructiveness to human happiness. It is admitted by some that the slave is not happy under the worst forms of slavery.
But I have never seen a happy slave. I have seen him dance in his chains, it is true; but he was not happy. There is a wide difference between happiness and mirth. Man cannot enjoy the former while his manhood is destroyed, and that part of the being which is necessary to the making, and to the enjoyment of happiness, is completely blotted out. The slaves, however, may be, and sometimes are, mirthful. When hope is extinguished, they say, "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."
[Just then stones were thrown at the windows, -- a great noise without, and commotion within.]
What is a mob? What would the breaking of every window be? What would the levelling of this Hall be? Any evidence that we are wrong, or that slavery is a good and wholesome institution? What if the mob should now burst in upon us, break up our meeting and commit violence upon our persons -- would this be any thing compared with what the slaves endure? No, no: and we do not remember them "as bound with them," if we shrink in the time of peril, or feel unwilling to sacrifice ourselves, if need be, for their sake. [Great noise.] I thank the Lord that there is yet life left enough to feel the truth, even though it rages at it -- that conscience is not so completely seared as to be unmoved by the truth of the living God.
Many persons go to the South for a season, and are hospitably entertained in the parlor and at the table of the slave-holder.
They never enter the huts of the slaves; they know nothing of the dark side of the picture, and they return home with praises on their lips of the generous character of those with whom they had tarried.
Or if they have witnessed the cruelties of slavery, by remaining silent spectators they have naturally become callous -- an insensibility has ensued which prepares them to apologize even for barbarity. . . .
[Another outbreak of mobocratic spirit, and some confusion in the house.]. . . I feel that all this disturbance is but an evidence that our efforts are the best that could have been adopted, or else the friends of slavery would not care for what we say and do.
. . . We may talk of occupying neutral ground, but on this subject, in its present attitude, there is no such thing as neutral ground. He that is not for us is against us, and he that gathereth not with us, scattereth abroad. If you are on what you suppose to be neutral ground, the South look upon you as on the side of the oppressor. . . . [Shoutings, stones thrown against the windows, &c.]
There is nothing to be feared from those who would stop our mouths, but they themselves should fear and tremble. The current is even now setting fast against them. . . . A few years ago, and the South felt secure, and with a contemptuous sneer asked, "Who are the abolitionists? The abolitionists are nothing?" -- Aye, in one sense they were nothing, and they are nothing still. But in this we rejoice, that "God has chosen things that are not to bring to nought things that are." [Mob again disturbed the meeting.]
We often hear the question asked, "What shall we do?" Here is an opportunity for doing something now. Every man and every woman present may do something by showing that we fear not a mob, and, in the midst of threatenings and revilings, by opening our mouths for the dumb and pleading the cause of those who are ready to perish. . .
The mob returned on the following day, Thursday. More meetings were scheduled for the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women,; they refused to comply with the Mayor's request to restrict the meeting to white women only. The building's managers, fearing that the mob posed a threat, handed the keys over to the mayor. After locking the doors, the mayor announced to the crowd that the remaining meetings had been cancelled. The crowd cheered as he walked away. The crowd broke into the building, destroyed the interior and set fires inside. The mayor returned with the police, but by now the mob was out of control, and attacked the police. By nine o'clock that night the fires had spread, engulfing the building in flames. Firefighters arrived at the scene but sprayed only the structures that surrounded Pennsylvania Hall. When one unit tried spraying the new building, its men became the target of the other units' hoses. With no one working to save Pennsylvania Hall, it was soon completely destroyed.
|Pennsylvania Hall in flames|
An official report blamed the abolitionists for the riots, claiming that they incited violence by upsetting the citizens of Philadelphia with their views and for encouraging "race mixing."
Lucretia Mott wrote to her son-in-law, Edward M. Davis, then in Paris:
My dear Edward, — We have had a season of much excitement, since thou left, in the burning of Penn Hall, and the breaking up of our Convention by the mob; accounts of which have been sent to thee, in much detail. Our proceedings, though not yet published, have greatly roused our pseudo-abolitionists, as well as alarmed such timid ones as our good Dr. Farrish. He has left no means untried to induce us to expunge from our minutes a resolution relating to social intercourse with our colored brethren. In vain I urged the great departure from order and propriety in such a proceeding after the Convention had separated. He and Charles Townsend were "willing to take the responsibility," if the publishing committee would consent to have it withdrawn, and when he failed in this effort, he called some of the respectable portion of the colored people together at Robert Douglas', arid advised them not to accept such intercourse as was proffered them, and to Issue a disclaimer of any such wish. This they have not yet done; but it has caused not a little excitement among us. The bone of contention has been the admission of another proscribed class — women — to equal participation in the doings of the Convention. I was glad to hear thou hadst received letters from Wm. Lloyd Garrison, introducing thee to Anti-Slavery friends in England. Whether or not there is one to Harriet Martineau, I hope thou wilt call on her, if thou hast opportunity; as far as the tendering of our affectionate regard may serve as an introduction, avail thyself of it. Assure her of the satisfaction we have had in the perusal of her late works, and the desire we feel that her pen will not cease to be employed in defense of personal and political freedom until every vestige of slavery shall be erased from our land. In warm affection, thy mother, L. Mott.Immediately after its destruction, the Board of Managers of Pennsylvania Hall became embroiled in a legal and financial struggle to recover damages and pay off debts. Daniel Neall was the President of the Association; it was not until 1849 --over a decade since the dedication of the Hall, and three years after Daniel Neall senior's death--that his son settled the debts his father had incurred on behalf of the Pennsylvania Hall Association.
In September 1838, a group of abolitionists established the New England Non-Resistance Society in Boston. William Lloyd Garrison was one of the charter members. The organization's emphasis was on the repudiation of all forms of physical force as weapons to maintain public or private safety, not only in attack but in defense. The Non-Resistance Society denied the right of any physical retaliation. All persons regardless of sex, color or race were eligible for membership. At the next meeting in September 1839, the resolution was offered that
the only basis upon which a reformatory Society can stand and effect its work in the hearts of men, is a sacred respect for the right of opinion.
The Elders & others there have been quite desirous to make me an offender for joining with those not in membership with us & accepting offices in these Societies. But our Friends here know full well that such a position is neither contrary to our Discipline, to Scripture, to reason, nor sense. I was permitted to answer for myself & I found proof enough in the practice of Friends from the days of Wm. Penn to the present - of such "mixtures" they failed of bringing action against me.In the summer of 1839, she wrote a letter to George Combe, mentioning that she had met his cousin, the actress
|Fanny Kemble Butler|
We were pleased with the introduction to your cousin Fanny Butler - & particularly so with the freedom of her call on us . . . I have since accepted a kind invitation to ride out to their place, and passed an hour or two very pleasantly with her . . . She has a mind of no common order - & moral sentiments rendered active by reason of use - Still I regard her so much a child of impusle, that she rather calls forth my compassionate feelings . . . I hear she is going to repeat her visit to us & shall be glad of an opportunity for futher acquaintance.In March of 1840, Lucretia Mott accompanied a group of Quakers to Delaware to visit friends and attend Southern meetings. They spent some time with Thomas Garrett and his wife, Rachel, in Wilmington. The group included Daniel Neall and his wife, who was Lucretia's cousin. Daniel Neall had been born and raised in Delaware. Slaveholders in the area heard that Mott and her companions were abolitionists, and determined to send them a warning; unwilling to harm a woman, the angry locals chose Daniel Neall as their target. Offlythat he would be would be tarred and feathered. The Quakers followed, protesting. Lucretia later wrote:
The scene was truly awful at the time. Dr. Neall's new wife was not inured to mobs as some of are - she shook as with an ague fit from head to foot. I plead hard with them to take me as I was the offender - if offense had been committed & give him up to his wife - but they declined saying "you are a woman and we have nothing to say to you" to wh. I answered "I ask no courtesy at your hands on account of my sex," but they had heard of him before as of Penna. Hall. Our presence and remonstrances no doubt moderated their purpose.
In spite of their financial setbacks, the Motts received assistance in order to attend the General Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840, better known as the World's Anti-Slavery Convention, in London, England. While in England, Lucretia Mott, for the first and only time, kept a diary; probably with the intention of writing out in full at some future time the incidents of so interesting a visit.
We sailed from New York in the fine packet ship Roscoe . . . . Much time was passed in the round-house, and on the sides of the ship, watching the billowy deep, and looking afar for sails. Much interesting conversation on slavery with West Indians. . . on theology, with sectarians; and on politics, with tories and haters of O'Connell. No conversions "bread cast upon the waters.'' Isaac Winslow, beloved of all, in his abundant kindness, distributed freely from his supplies of oranges, lemons, soda, and other comforts and luxuries. E. Neall, the life of our company, and favorite of the Captain. Meeting on First-day. Father Grew read and preached. . . . Landed at Liverpool, and went to the Adelphi Hotel. Lodging rooms nice, with curtained beds, and night-caps provided for gentlemen. Many things different from what we had seen before. . . .
Manchester, passing fine country seats, and extensive artificial forests. First-day — Went to Friends' Meeting; silent; a handsome house with nice benches, all cushioned. Friends wearing high bonnets, and veils. Afternoon at the Sunday School at Isaac Crewdson's church, where the children are instructed in the importance of baptism, and supper, and orthodox faith. . . . The house is built after the manner of Friends, but more ornamented, having maple benches with green cushions and footstools, and the floor carpeted with coarse India matting, as in most meeting houses we saw. The gallery is small, designed for only five or six, to the exclusion of women. Some Friends in England are also of the opinion that women would not be called to that office, if men were faithful to their vocation; and these claim to be the legitimate descendants of George Fox and his noble and worthy contemporaries! Isaac Crewdson invited us to go home and sup with him; gave us books explanatory of their tenets, and treated us kindly and charitably. We respected their zeal and sincerity, while we mourned such a declension from the simplicity of the faith of the Society of Friends.
. . . To Windsor Castle, and through the magnificent apartments; thence to the chapel during morning service. I could not understand the indistinct speaker; the boys' responses and chauntings, with banners waving over their heads, bordered on the ridiculous. It was war and the church united. . . .From Windsor to London, twenty miles, top of coach, our coachman communicative, and as we generally found them, more intelligent than ours in America. They are well-dressed, would-be gentlemen, seldom leaving their seats, and giving no assistance in changing horses. We saw gypsies' carts, and a few of the "vagabond and useless tribe." Women in the fields weeding; others, with small children, gathering manure in their aprons and selling it in small quantities. The road was swept and scraped like our streets, and the walking so good that women may well walk six miles in the country without dread or fatigue.
As we drew near London . . . our coachman turned into Friday Lane, and up a dark court, where we dismounted in the rain at the " Saracen's Head," and were ushered into a dismal, dark, back room, — "and this," we exclaimed, " is London! " We did not rest until we found a more comfortable lodging, at Mark Moore's, No. 6 Queen St. Place, Southwark Bridge, Cheapside, where we met with many abolitionists, among whom a number from America, James G. Birney, H. B. Stanton and his nice Elizabeth, E. Galusha, Nathan Colver, Wm. Knibb and W. Clark from Jamaica, two colored men, Barrett, and Beckford, and Samuel Prescod from Barbadoes.In spite of Mott's status as one of six women delegates, before the conference began, the men voted to exclude the American women from participating, and the female delegates were required to sit in a segregated area. Anti-Slavery leaders didn't want the women's rights issue to become associated with the cause of ending slavery worldwide and dilute the focus on abolition. In addition, the social mores of the time generally prohibited women's participating in public political life. Several of the American men attending the convention, including William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips, protested the women's exclusion. Garrison, Nathaniel P. Rogers, William Adams, and African American activist Charles Lenox Remond sat with the women in the segregated area.
Newlyweds Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her husband Henry B. Stanton attended the convention while on their honeymoon. Stanton admired Mott, and the two women became friends and allies. Stanton later recalled:
It seemed to me like meeting a being from some larger planet, to find a woman who dared question the opinions of Popes, Kings, Synods, Parliaments, with the same freedom that she would criticize an editorial in the London Times, recognizing no higher authority than the judgment of a pure-minded, educated woman.
When I first heard from the lips of Lucretia Mott that I had the same right to think for myself that Luther, Calvin, and John Knox had, and the same right to be guided by my own convictions, and would no doubt live a higher, happier life than if guided by theirs, I felt at once a new-born sense of dignity and freedom; it was like suddenly coming into the rays of the noon-day sun, after wandering with a rushlight in the caves of the earth.Mott and Stanton became well acquainted while in London. Stanton remembered:
When I confessed to her my great enjoyment in works of fiction, dramatic performances, and dancing, and feared that from underneath that Quaker bonnet would come some platitudes on the demoralizing influence of such frivolities, she smiled, and said, "I regard dancing a very harmless amusement,"' and added, "the Evangelical Alliance, that so readily passed a resolution declaring dancing a sin for a church member, tabled a resolution declaring slavery a sin for a bishop."
Sitting alone one day, as we were about London, I expressed to her my great satisfaction in our acquaintance, and thanked her for the many religious doubts and fears she had banished from my mind. She said, "There is a broad distinction between religion and theology. The one is a natural, human experience, common to all well-organized minds. The other is a system of speculation about the unseen, and unknowable, which the human mind has no power to grasp, or explain; and these speculations vary with every sect, age, and type of civilization. No one knows any more of what lies beyond our sphere of action, than thou and I; and we know nothing."Richard D. Webb of Dublin published an account of Lucretia Mott in the Dublin Weekly Herald:
Nobody doubted that Lucretia Mott was the lioness of the Convention. She is a thin, petite, dark-complexioned woman, about fifty years of age. She has striking intellectual features, and bright vivacious eyes. This lady has the enviable celebrity of being one of the most undaunted, consistent, able, and indefatigable friends of the slave; being paramount even amongst the female abolitionists of America. Harriet Martineau, in one of her thrilling essays on American Slavery, notices her as "a woman of an intellect as sound and comprehensive, as her heart is noble,"' and from what we have seen and heard of her, we believe the compliment to be no more than just.
Although one of the delegates from the American Anti-Slavery Society to the Convention, she was prevented from taking her place in that character, by a vote passed in the very first sitting, which decided that gentlemen only were intended to be summoned by the London Convention, through whom the assembly was convoked . . .
She is a Minister of the Society of Friends, and is one of the most distinguished and eloquent preachers in Philadelphia. She dresses with the utmost degree of Quaker simplicity known in these islands . . . Yet she is no precisian herself, and is more zealous in recommending that rational simplicity which results from humility and Christian principle, than the adoption of any system of external uniformity.
One of her favorite themes is the importance of encouraging the use of free labor produce, and of abstaining as far as possible from nil the fruits of slavery. She considers that those who protest against slave-holders, yet make no scruple of purchasing the fruits of their oppression and injustice, are about as consistent as the man who would exclaim against a thief, and then turn round and purchase from him his ill-gotten booty.
She unites with many of her friends in Philadelphia, who are similarly concerned in procuring (although at an increased expense,) as much free labor cotton as suffices for their consumption, and that of their families; thus holding forth a consistent example in their own persons, while pleading in behalf of the slave. We have even heard that where the choice lies between their own convenience, and abstinence from the blood- stained produce, they freely prefer the latter alternative, if abstinence be practicable.
The day we left London after the conclusion of the Convention, we met Lucretia Mott in the Egyptian saloon of the British Museum, where her slender figure, animated features, and simple attire, contrasted strangely with the cold and solemn relics of primeval times, by which she was surrounded. We heard her remark on that occasion, that it was hardly reasonable to wonder so much at the idolatry of the Egyptians, seeing that the prostration of mind which prevails in the present day, if not so revolting in its manifestations, is at least as profound.The Motts also did some touring and visiting in the British Isles:
At two o'clock seven carriages were sent to take all our American company to Samuel Gurney's, a pleasant ride of five or six miles. It is called Ham House, and has a beautiful park, with grass soft as velvet, where a tent was erected in case the house should overflow. T. F. Buxton, wife and children were there, E. Fry and husband and son, the Braithwaits, Forsters, and many more, including the Duchess of Sutherland and daughter, and Lord Morpeth; much fuss when they arrived in a coach and four grays, with outriders, and six servants in livery.
Samuel Gurney introduced the daughter, and proposed her walking with L. Mott. After all were coupled and arranged, we paraded about the lawn awhile, then stood in a group, and heard S. Gurney read a letter from the Marquis of Westminster, on the Convention, British India, the cotton trade, etc., which elicited some remarks that were listened to with attention, though startling in the beginning. . . .
Fifty sat down to the table, a cold collation, except the fish and soup and vegetables. E. Fry asked a blessing. Conversation was free and pleasant during the meal, after which S. Gurney made a short speech expressive of his satisfaction at having so many American guests. . . He invited the young people to help themselves to wine; gently reproved for it; bore it well. Many more joined at tea, which was served in the drawing-room, as is the invariable custom in England. Everything went off very well, and we shall long remember the visit.
. . . Went to Lady Byron's according to appointment, and saw Lady Lovelace and her three sweet children; then went with her to her school, five miles out of London. On the way we had much talk about Unitarians. She expressed herself as not quite satisfied with any sect, but had often thought Quaker and Unitarian would suit her, and that an advantage would arise from visits to other places of worship. Her remarks were sensible, and showed dignity of character and Christian simplicity. Her school is to try the experiment of manual labor, and is answering well. . . .
Went to Edinboro', on top of coach, to meet Sarah Pugh and Abby Kimber, who had joined H. B. Stanton and wife, in a visit to Paris. The country different from Ireland; fine roads, and neat cottages; farms looking like ours in Chester County . . .
Top of coach to Melrose. A Georgia planter in company tried to convince us, that the slave was better off than the workingman of England and Ireland, but not succeeding, begged off, as he did not want the pleasure of his day's ride destroyed, as it was in Ireland, by talking on that subject. He seemed to like our company, and asked us to join their party to Abbotsford. . . . Thence to Dryburg Abbey, in two carriages. Crossed the Tweed in a small boat, rowed by our Georgia friend, who was glad to do what he could to bring us over to the other side. We laughed at him for having such a company of abolitionists under his charge. It was a long walk after getting over. I lagged behind to eat of the abundant cherries in the enclosure, while the girls were hastening to sentimentalize, and gather flowers from Scott's grave. The ivy climbing over the ruined windows was beautiful. We went down to the Crypt, or Chapter House, full of busts and broken things . . . Melrose by moonlight was exquisite; so pale and bright - All were called into the churchyard to see the shadow of a sprite; returned late to a supper of oatmeal porridge and milk. Seventh - day — Coach to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Sorry to leave our Georgian behind. . . .
First-day — Rode to TyneMouth by rail, then walked a mile to the sea-side. Found Harriet Martineau in comfortable lodgings, seated at a window overlooking the sea. She received us cordially, entered into pleasant conversation, and two or three hours passed almost before we were aware of it. Many subjects were touched upon . . . the loss of so many friends, a painful one. Returned at two o.c., parting with her, never expecting to meet again, as she is afflicted with a disease which she thinks will prove fatal. . . . — Arrived in London early in the morning, and enjoyed the ride through the streets, all clean and quiet, before the stores and houses were open. . . . First-day — Parted with all our friends with affection, and said farewell to London, with a feeling of sadness. . . .After returning to the United States, Mott corresponded with Richard Webb and his wife:
Phila., 2nd mo. 25th day, 1842. My dear Richard and Hannah Webb, and our other dear friends in Dublin, — For when writing to any one of your precious circle, I feel as if I were addressing all, C. Corkran, inclusive, in the yearnings of undiminished affection. As the result of our travel abroad, nothing affords more unmingled pleasure, than the reception of some three or four sheets of Richard's " illegible writing." The very difficulty we have in deciphering seems to heighten the gratification, for we know that when we have puzzled it out, we shall be paid for the effort. . . .
I want to send a heretical sermon, preached by Theodore Parker, in Boston, last year: the "Transient and Permanent in Christianity." It created a great stir in New England, and led some of the old Unitarians to tremble for their reputations as Christians. The Orthodox were out upon them in all quarters; which led some of them to issue their disclaimers. . . .But to my understanding we shall not make much progress as Christians, until we dare read and examine the Jewish Scriptures, as we would any other of the ancient records. By what authority do we set so high a value on every text that may be drawn from this volume? Certainly not by any command therein found. On the contrary, again and again, there is an appeal to the inner sense; " Why even of yourselves, judge ye not what is right? "
. . . I read its pages, I mean the Scriptures, over and over again with a keen relish, and encourage our children to do the same; but I cannot do, as we saw Friends in England and Ireland do, make the reading of that book a religious rite in the family, and adopt a peculiar tone and solemn style of pronunciation.
. . . Let us venerate the good and the true, while we respect not prejudice and superstition. . . .
Elizabeth Cady Stanton is at her father's. She writes to her friend, Eliza J. Neall, that she has lately made her debut in public in a temperance speech, and was so eloquent in her appeals as to affect not only her audience, but herself to tears. About one hundred men were present. She infused into her speech a homeopathic dose of Woman's Rights, and does the same in many private conversations. In a letter to me, some time ago, she says, "The more I think on the present condition of women, the more am I oppressed with the reality of her degradation. The laws of our country, how unjust are they! our customs, how vicious! What God has made sinful, both in man and woman, custom has made sinful in woman alone. In talking with many people, I have been struck with this fact." . . .
I began this long letter as dated. It is now Third mo. . . . I can only write a little each day, having many interruptions. Another lion has just arrived in the city — Charles Dickens. Our children have a strong desire to see him. I, too, have liked the benevolence of his writings, though I have read very little in them. I did not expect to seek an interview, or to invite him here, as he was not quite one of our sort. But just now, there was left at our door, his and his wife's card, with a kind letter from our dear friend, E. J. Keid, London, introducing them, and expressing a strong desire that we would make their acquaintance. There is not a woman in London, whose draft I would more gladly honor, So now we shall call on them, and our daughters are in high glee. I regret that in Boston and New York tho people have been so extravagant in their reception of the man.
|Charles Dickens, 1842|
. . . We yesterday attended the funeral of James Forten. You will see an account of his death in the "A. S. Standard," and an obituary written by Mary Grew. It was a real amalgamation funeral; hundreds of white people, and thousands of colored. . . . But I must close this very long letter. With kindest remembrances to all the loved circle, I am yours most truly, Lucretia Mott.
Phila., 10th mo. 8th, 1842. My Dear Nathaniel, — We have thy two acceptable letters, with their accompaniments, and hardly know how to make adequate acknowledgment for all thy kindness to us. . . . We ought not to marvel that the Washingtonians are so unprepared for intermingling with colored people. When we consider the prejudices under which they have grown up; how little they have heard, or read, to remove those prejudices; and how earnest were the appeals to us on this point, before ever our eyes were opened, we should be cautious of driving them too fast. There is yet a difference of sentiment and feeling on this subject, even among abolitionists. Let us plead with such as are holding back, so that this beam may be removed out of our own eye.
. . . My dear love to our cousins, Tho' and Eunice Macy. Very affectionately, L. Mott.
Letter from James Mott to Nathaniel Barney, Nantucket:
Phila., 11th mo. 25th, 1842. My dear friend, N. Barney, — Lucretia and self returned to our sweet and pleasant home on Fourth-day, 23rd, after an absence of nearly four weeks. Among the letters received while we were away was one from thee. On reading it L. said, "I don't know when I shall find time to write;" so I have concluded to help her, although a very poor substitute, and give you, that is, thee and Eliza, and our other friends on Nantucket, some account of our journey in Maryland and Virginia. You know of our going to attend the Yearly Meeting in Baltimore, which proved to be more satisfactory than we had anticipated. Some friends in that city were fearful of abolition doctrine when they heard of L.'s prospect; but they received us kindly, and when the meeting was over, their fears were in great measure removed, and their prejudices abated. . . . Some articles were published in the papers approving what was said. . . On their arrival in Baltimore, an influential Friend, one from whom kind treatment and sympathetic encouragement might have been expected, said to Lucretia Mott : " Now, Lucretia, let us have no battle array." No reply was spoken, but the tender heart, so brave and resolute before its adversaries, so sensitive to friendly criticism, felt keenly this gratuitous thrust.
|Eliza Starbuck Barney,|
wife of Nathaniel Barney
. . . Accompanied by Edwd. Needles, in carriage and horses furnished by his brother John Needles, (at whose house we had been kindly entertained, and who, with his lovely family, manifested sympathy and interest for us,) we left Baltimore . . . traveling three hundred and fifty miles. Our meetings were all well attended, and some of them large; at most, if not all, more or less slave- holders, were present, and heard their "peculiar institution" spoken of plainly, and themselves rebuked for the robbery and wrong they were committing on their fellow creatures. Our meetings, without any exception, were quiet and altogether respectful, and we were treated on all occasions with kindness and attention . . . Some elderly Friends were timid and fearful lest we might cause an excitement, and wanted the subject of slavery should be let alone as much as possible; but the younger class of Friends, and the common people, and even many other professors, heard gladly and acknowledged the truth of what was said. On the whole, our visit has been satisfactory to us, and we believe to most of the visited; and we have abundant cause to be encouraged in the promulgation of truth and sound principles.
We had some opportunity of conversation with slave-holders and their apologists, and are still further confirmed in the opinion, that the slave-holder is more open to reason and conviction, than many. . . The slave-holders, or many of them, will bear to hear the truth spoken in the love of the Gospel, and in this love plain things may be said, and will bring an acknowledgment of their truth; of this we had full evidence.
FROM L. M. TO THE SAME
2nd mo., 14th, 1843. Here this letter has lain, nearly three mo waiting for me to fill and send it, while I have delayed from time to time. My health has not been very good since my return, and writing has been rather a dread to me. Some parts of the above will be old and stale, if indeed it was necessary to be so minute about my little fulfilments of duty. It needs care that we do not magnify our missions of love.
As so much is told, I may as well complete the narrative by informing you that I was not easy to return my minute, without going again to Washington, and seeking an interview with those in power, and the representatives of this nation.
We applied for the Hall of Congress, but that being granted on condition of silence on slavery, we of course could not accept it. The Unitarian house proved a far better place, and it was crowded to excess, — many members of Congress present — all quiet and respectful. . . . We marveled that the people, both there and in Virginia, were so open to hear the truth on the subject of slavery. We called on Pres. Tyler. I told him "a part of my mission mas to interest those in power on the subject of emancipation." He professed some interest m the subject, but thought the blacks should be colonized. James told him that the South could not do without them, and he thought they should he left free to choose their location, as other people were. He asked if we would be willing to have them at the North. I replied, " Yes — as many as incline to come, but most of them would prefer to remain on the plantation and work for wages." He spoke of the discussions of the subject years ago in Virginia, "but the Missouri question and other agitations had put the cause back." I hoped it was not too late to resume it. He liked the way Friends treated the subject; he had lately read the address from Baltimore, and liked it. I did not, — it was calculated to set the slave-holder's conscience too much at ease, — it made more apology for him, than he could make for himself. He replied, "I should like to hand Mr. Calhoun over to you."
. . . We called on John Quincy Adams, who seemed much discouraged that anything would be effected this Congress, or the next, on the subject of slavery. The message of the new governor of N. Y. had " made his blood boil with indignation." Our hopes of success must not rest on those in power, but on the common people, whose servants they are. These hear truth gladly, when free access is obtained to their unprejudiced hearts.
18th--We were rejoiced to learn by Lib’s letter to-day that our dear Mother had arrived in safety & we shall expect another very soon. . . . Just after Marianna went Catharine [their maid} brot me a paper directed to James Fuller & others of the “spiritually minded” recommending a runaway slave to the care of whom it may concern. Tho Catharine had never heard of Gerritt Smith’s address to Slaves, she brought the waiter & spoons up with her. I went down & talked a little with him & left him to eat a comfortable supper. He left his bundle as soon as he had done & sd. he wd. be back soon, but has not come. While he was here I got him to put two heavy sticks into the furnace for we are such a poor set that we can but just make out to keep the furnace fed. . . . David said he had a runaway slave at the office carrying wood today & he liked him so well that he talked of sending him up in Smith’s stead & I supposed the one that came to night was the one, but he says he has only just come into town. Mr. & Mrs. Seward called here today. Mr. S. has returned to his law office--but Mrs. S. said the days seemed very long to him. [William Henry Seward was an Auburn neighbor of the Wrights, and his wife Frances was a close friend of Martha.]. . . 19th--Before I go to bed I will write a few lines. Our slave returned about 9 last evening & sat alone in the kitchen & read till David came. He went down & talked with him--he said he was from Baltimore & had paid his master 300 dollars--he asked 800--being sold to go south he ran away to Pittsburg in the Southern states & was on his way to Massachusetts where his people lived. As I didn’t fancy having him go up stairs he had D’s old cloak, & slept by the kitchen stove on my settee--how little I imagined to what use it was to be applied. After getting him to put a stick in the furnace D. left him & fastened the door at the head of the kitchen stairs he gave him 50¢ as he wanted to get a ride part way--early this morning David saw him & got some bread & butter for him as he wished to be off before it was very light. So after putting in more wood & tying up a couple of shirts & bosoms that we gave him, he cleared. Tallman came down early to have some interesting conversation with him about the land of chains & was much disappointed to find he had left--he had to go to the Post Office then, but could not find his tippet which he knew he hung in the kitchen with his cap, and as David noticed it in the evening the inference was that early morning walks made warmer clothing desirable & the slave had taken Gerritt Smith’s advise & the tippet. - But we didn’t say so to Tallman, David sd. it wd. give such a shock to his philanthropy & as to Eliza, she was as afraid as could be of him before, & hardly dared to go to bed & if she should know it she would hardly dare stay in the house if another came--David didn’t relish it much & said if his master came for him he would not defend him--I suppose he wd. willingly have gi’n him the tippet if he had asked. I told him we must consider that he had had no one to teach him better--he sd. then he had better stay among thieves. Probably in his benighted state he had never met with the lines inscribed by the juvenile offender on the wall of his cell--“Him wot prigs what isn’t his’n--Ven he’s cotched, must go to prison.” I desired Marianna to shut the flue to day & told her that the slave had put it in the wood with a heavy hand. She replied that he appeared to be light fingered. David had told Tallman to ascertain where that other slave lived & send him here to saw the wood in Smith’s place. After breakfast he said solemnly “Tallman, as soon as you have done, go to Ptolemy & tell him to come & saw that wood.” Ptolemy is our white right handman wot cleans the snow. Marianna was much amused & told her father that slave labor seemed to have undergone a sudden depression. In ransacking the safe & shelves for a supper for the ‘outcast’ I found some flinty bread cakes in the safe wh. Catharine had neglected to have eaten before they dried. I had her to put them in milk over night and to day with Eliza’s assistance to beat the whites of the eggs separately she made the handsomest bread pudding I ever ate--which, with ham & potatoes made our dinner.Members of the Society of Friends did not approve of Mott's participation in Anti-Slavery Fairs. They were held annually, just before Christmas time. One year, she offered her parlors as a place for their sale. This innovation gave great offense, and caused much serious consultation among Friends. Some went so far as to visit her and remonstrate on so light-minded a proceeding; and particularly on the vanity of her having allowed engravings of herself to be included in the sale.
Philadelphia, 3rd mo. 13th, 1843. My dear Friend, Cyrus Peirce, — In compliance with thy request, I will endeavor to give thee a true statement of the circumstances, which thou says have been reported to my disadvantage. Not that I expect to satisfy those who are disposed to believe otherwise. For years past I have considered time poorly spent in trying to disabuse such minds, and have not taken a step to correct any report which a detracting spirit may have spread. But for thy sake I will so far deviate from my wonted course as to say: — as regards the sale of articles at our house, the generous gift of some of our English abolitionists, they did not come to hand until after our annual sale, or Fair, and being sent particularly to me, I concluded best to open and expose them for sale in our house. . . . They were principally useful articles of clothing; some beautiful drawings and paintings; and . . . some pressed flowers taken from Melrose Abbey, and from the grave of Elizabeth Heyrick, the well known author of "Immediate, not Gradual Abolition." . . . These flowers wore stitched to a card, on which were inscribed some appropriate lines. They were sold at twenty-five cents each; also, at the same price, some rulers made from a tree, under which George Fox had preached. . . . Our daughters, with one or two of their friends, had charge of them, and attended to the sale, as I . . . did not feel disposed to attend to it, while I had not the least objection to their doing so. . . . The remainder of the articles were kept till the next annual Fair. Of the good that has been accomplished by these and other efforts on behalf of the stricken and suffering slave, let an awakened conscience, a growing public sentiment in favor of emancipation, and the thousands of liberated fugitives in Canada, testify. The effect on the young, of devoting part of their time to such objects, I have seen to be salutary. As our friend Nathaniel Barney has said, "Some who can employ a leisure, and perhaps otherwise an idle hour, are now interested to elaborate some beautiful needlework or otherwise, and in this way their latent feelings are awakened, and I have no doubt this may be a means of exciting inquiry, and finally begetting an abiding interest in the great work of human freedom. I therefore feel it right to do a trifle in aid of it."
. . . As respects the engraving or likeness, thou may inform thy friends, that I had nothing to do, either with the execution, sale, or profit of it. It was done when I was absent from home. I have never disposed of them in any way, either by present, or sale. Nor was I acquainted with the fact of any being taken into the country to be sold. As far as I was consulted, I tried to discourage the exhibition of them. Still I view it as a harmless indulgence, and cannot pass censure on those who preserve an image of their friends. Thus thou wilt see, "how great a matter a little fire kindleth." If any of thy friends are really desirous of having the above explanation, I hope it may prove satisfactory.
1st mo. 2nd, 1844. It is always my wish to take due notice of thy letters, before any little family incidents fill the sheet. It is true that the dancing part is not exactly "in my line," — though I shall have to be careful what I say, since my daughter and son accept invites to parties where there is dancing, and stay far too late in the morning. Such a succession of parties as they are having now, I fear will be dissipating to the moral sense. And then the reading of such a thick two-volume novel as the "Mysteries of Paris" consumes a midnight hour occasionally. I long sometimes to see them more interested in reading that which would minister to their highest good, but I have ceased to force such reading on them. ... I like such answers as thy workman gave. In advocating our own cause, we are apt to overlook the other side. We need to be reminded to "look upon the things of others" as well as our own.
Anna Davis Hallowell wrote of her great-grandmother:
In the spring of 1844 a sad blow befell this happy home, in the death of the beloved grandmother, Anna Coffin. Although she had lived to the ripe age of seventy-three, and her children were grown men and women, some of them with children and grandchildren of their own, they could not part without the keenest grief from one to whom they still looked as to a guide, relying on her judgment and valuing her approbation as in their younger days. Hers was the perfect old age, surrounded by loving descendants, who vied with each other in attention to her; upon whose joys and cares she bestowed the sympathy of a heart always young, and the wisdom of a long and varied experience. She shared their anxieties, lessened their sorrows, and increased their happiness. No pleasure was complete without her; no misfortune insupportable, when mitigated by her counsel and encouragement.
My own memory of her is indistinct. She seemed, to the little girl I was, to be always sitting up very straight, always knitting, and generally humming in an undertone to herself. There was nothing I liked better than to take a nap on the floor by her chair, lulled to sleep by the monotonous tap of her feet, the regular click of her knitting-needles, and the slow measure of "Hush, my babe, lie still and slumber."
But I remember very well the awe that fell upon us at her death, and the sense of stillness and vacancy in the house.The summer of 1845 was busy for the family: in July, their daughter Elizabeth married Thomas Cavender, and their son Thomas married his cousin, Marianna Pelham, the daughter of Martha Coffin Wright. In August, the Motts traveled to Ohio for a Yearly Meeting in Salem.
Lucretia Mott's letter to Martha Coffin Wright:
Phila., 4th mo. 10th, 1846. . . . The thirty-fifth anniversary of our marriage, when thou wast four years old, and asked, "Is this a wedding?"
. . . Our family party Seventh-day was pleasant; fifteen at dinner, and twenty at tea. I worked like a beaver that morning, so as to be ready to sit down with them early; did my sweeping and dusting, raking the grass plat, etc., made milk biscuit, a plum pudding, and a lemon pudding. Mariana and Martha made cake the day before. ... I was pleased to hear of thy interest in the abolition of capital punishment; pleased, too, that thou art becoming such a home missionary. ... I always feel sorry for strangers to hear G. F. White, smart as he is, and superior in the use of language to most of our preachers, yet there is so much mere nonsense in his attempted explanations of Scripture passages, and so much seeming allowance tor slavery, bloodshed, and wine-drinking, that the tendency must be demoralizing. That atonement study is the veriest waste of time and energy. Our Elders don't like that I should come out so plainly on the absurdity of the whole scheme, but truth and reason constrain me. . . .In 1846, Mott was a founder and president of the Northern Association for the Relief and Employment of Poor Women in Philadelphia. The following year, she continued to attend antislavery conventions as well as Ohio and Indiana Yearly meetings.
Anna Davis Hallowell wrote:
"Family meetings" began in 1847 and continued for ten years, when the removal from Philadelphia of various members of the family made them no longer possible. These meetings were open to any descendant of "Grandfather Folger," but were composed mainly of female descendants, who met from house to house, in alphabetical order, every Fifth-day during the winter, right after the usual two-o'clock dinner, and stayed until dark, — except occasionally, when especially invited to tea. Each brought her sewing, any letters of general interest that she had received, and whatever news she could muster. These gatherings of the clan formed a sort of domestic "exchange," and afforded opportunity for social intercourse, as well as for consultation on matters requiring deliberation and judgment; and beyond this, they promoted a kindly esprit de corp that has lasted to the third generation.
For a few winters, as many as twelve different families were included in this privilege. As a rule, children were not admitted. We often looked longingly through the parlor door at the pleasant groups, and made all possible errands into the room; but being then at the very undesirable age of "little pitchers," we were speedily sent out again. If we sometimes contrived to edge into a demure comer with oar little pretense of sewing, one sharp-eyed cousin was sure to discover us! However, when the company was asked to stay to tea, and the various fathers and husbands swelled the ranks, we children were also favored; and nothing was more delightful. Tea was handed, and we were allowed to pass the dishes. Then came such games as proverbs or anagrams; and sometimes, best of all to us, the reading of original verses of very pointed and personal wit.
Our grandmother began those family meetings, at first merely meaning to try to fill her mother's place, so sadly vacant; but gradually it grew to be her own place, and she became the centre from which all radiated, towards which all turned. The family circle widened and widened, but under her magic influence it never broke.The following letter is in reply to one from Richard D. Webb, written during the prevalence of the great famine in Ireland:
Phil., 2nd mo. 21st, 1847. My dear Friend, Richard D. Webb, — Thy very acceptable letter was most opportune. Not only was it read and re-read at the several meetings referred to, but long extracts from it were published in "Friends' Intelligencer," and thus were well circulated through our Yearly Meeting boundaries.
. . . We have been interested these two weeks past in an effort to reestablish the "True American," (Cassius M. Clay's paper) in Kentucky. John C. Vaughn, a South Carolinian, edited the paper with ability, after C. M. Clay left it, and indeed mostly after it was moved to Cincinnati. Vaughn has been obliged to suspend it, owing to lack of funds, though he has received very many letters from residents of Kentucky, urging its revival. . .
I received a letter not long since from the peace advocate, Elihu Burritt, asking my aid in procuring for him a list of all the Sunday-schools in our city, with their superintendents, in order to try to establish a correspondence on the subject of peace, love, and liberty. I confess I have not faith enough in the efficacy of the measure, nor indeed in Sunday-school operations in general, to enter into it very heartily. . . .I intend to write to Elihu Burritt on the subject. It is often a question, and still unsettled with me, whether the various religious organizations, with all their errors, are more productive of good than evil. But until we can offer something better in their stead to a people largely governed by religious sentiment, and a natural love for association, it requires great care how we shake their faith in existing institutions. I feel so when sitting in on colored Methodist meetings, where appeals to emotion call forth such loud shoutings; and yet the effect of the religious training they receive, with all its grossness, is wholesome on their lives and conduct. So, in our Quaker Society, with all the undue stress on externals, and all the preaching up "quietude" and doing nothing, still, the appeal to the inner sense is not made in vain; and many of our fold are among the foremost in reform and good works.
. . . The taking for granted that everything in the Bible is true, and must not be questioned, is doing much harm. War and slavery cannot be so successfully assailed while this is the case. . . .In another letter in order to Richard Webb:
Phil., 4th mo. 26th, 1847. My dear Friend, — ... I have not time to say what I would of the "Life of Joseph Blanco White." I have indeed read it with intense interest, and regard it the best radical or heretical work that has appeared in our age; because the religious sentiment continues so alive and active, while his mind is undergoing all the phases from gross superstition to arch-heresy. I suppose that part of his Diary is omitted during the period of his "unbelief."
|Lucretia Mott with a copy of one of her favorite books|
Life of Joseph Blanco White
. . . I borrowed it, but had not read far, before I proposed to our Edward M. Davis to buy it, and let it "go the rounds among our friends." The price is seven dollars here, there being no American edition, and very few English copies. Edward bought the last copy to be had in this city.
I sympathized especially with Blanco White's lonely and sad feelings, in having lo give up one friend after another " for the Son of Man's sake," and that his honesty forbade all compromise or conservatism. I wish I could show you my notes; they form three little volumes!
Oh, why didn't you know of Blanco White, and tell us all about him, when we were with you! He was living then. I have wondered if the "late Mrs. Rathbone," who lent him John Woolman's works, was the wife of Wm. Rathbone, our friend? How well he writes of us Quakers, — no, of our predecessors.
When I lent Woolman's works, years ago, to J. Miller McKim, while he was in process of conversion, I told him that I defended not the visionary part, and ever thought the early Quakers too superstitious. Having for two years past ceased to assume the kneeling posture in prayer, and also the standing posture while others pray, I could go with Blanco White in this non-conformity also, even while it has brought down "Cherry St." anathemas thick upon me, and raised quite a "tempest in our tea-pot" this winter. . .
|James Miller McKim|
1848 would be an active and momentous year: in March they attended the Anti-Sabbath Convention in Boston, Massachusetts: the purpose of the Anti-Sabbath Convention was to counter "the attempt to compel the observance of any day as 'THE SABBATH' especially by penal enactments" as "unauthorized by scripture or reason." They demanded "the right to worship God according to the dictates of OUR OWN CONSCIENCES."
In May she addressed the American Anti-Slavery Society in New York City with a speech titled "The Law of Progress":
Read the declaration of the Anti-Slavery Convention of 1838, and see what it was found necessary then to declare in Convention. The people were asleep on the subject with some few exceptions. There had been solitary individuals, such as Lundy, and Elias Hicks, and the Benezetts, the Clarksons, and the Wilberforces. But the labours in England for twenty years were simply to arrest the progress of the Slave-Trade; and it was the work of a woman to declare, that "Immediate, not Gradual Abolition, was no less the duty of the master, than the right of the slave.
In this Convention in Philadelphia, the great principles of human freedom were uttered that every man had a right to his own body, and that no man had a right to enslave or imbrute his brother, or to hold him for a moment as his property--to put a fellow-being on the auction-block, and sell him to the highest bidder, making the most cruel separations in families. At that time these things were scarcely known; the people had scarcely considered them. It was now made known to very many in the Northern States, that there were then more than two million held in this abject bondage, who were claimed as property,that men had this irresponsible control, this legal right to their persons.
. . . Observe the progress in the labours of this reform, that both the pulpit and the press are enlisted to some extent in behalf of the suffering and the dumb. Also, as has been already remarked in the legislative halls of the land, the National Assembly is engaged with it. Scarcely a Legislature in the several States but discovers at every move on the great question of American Slavery, something cheering to the Abolitionist.In July, she and James Mott toured the Cattaraugus Indian reservation as well as settlements of "self-emancipated" slaves in Canada. They then went to visit Lucretia's sister, Martha Coffin Wright, in Waterloo, New York.
Even though the slaves are increasing in numbers, even though their territory is being enlarged at every circle, yet, when we look abroad and see what is now being done in other lands, when we see human freedom engaging the attention of the nations of the earth, we may take courage; and while we perceive how it is assailed in our own land, still we know how impossible it will be to separate it from the question of the freedom of the slave, in that it is inseparably connected with it in France, and is beginning to be so in other countries.
. . .Why it was scarcely ten years since Pennsylvania Hall was burned by a mob, because the liberty of the coloured man was advocated by white and coloured people intermingled.
|Elizabeth Cady Stanton with two of her sons|
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, now the restless mother of three small sons, was living in nearby Seneca Falls. A social visit brought together Mott, Stanton, Wright, Mary Ann McClintock, and Jane Hunt.
|Mary Ann McClintock|
A crowd of about three hundred people, including forty men, came from five miles round. No woman felt capable of presiding; the task was undertaken by James Mott. All of the resolutions were passed unanimously except for woman suffrage, a strange idea and not a concept likely to appeal to the predominantly Quaker audience, whose male contingent commonly declined to vote. Frederick Douglass, now editor of the Rochester North Star, however, swayed the gathering into agreeing to the resolution.
At the closing session, Lucretia Mott won approval of a final resolve "for the overthrowing of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to woman equal participation with men in the various trades, professions and commerce." One hundred women and men signed the Seneca Falls Declaration-although subsequent criticism caused some of them to remove their names. The proceedings in Seneca Falls, followed a few days later by a meeting in Rochester, brought forth sarcasm and ridicule from the press and pulpit. Frederick Douglass wrote in the North Star:
A discussion of the rights of animals would be regarded with far more complacency by many of what are called the wise and the good of our land, than would be a discussion of the rights of woman.Later that year, Lucretia Mott chided Martha Wright for being quiet during the convention, and Wright responded:
I plead guilty to being very stupid & dispirited at Seneca Falls - the prospect of having more Wrights than I wanted tending materially to subdue the ardor & energy that would doubtless have characterized me "at another time" but I was glad of the privilege of looking on and shrinking, as far as shrinking was practicable, into the insignifance [sic] that under the circumstances was appropriate for me.Martha Wright's "having more Wrights than I wanted" (but not enough rights!) and "as far as shrinking was practicable" (when six months pregnant) reveal the humor that characterized her letters and published writings, including her newspaper article, "Hints for Wives," read at Seneca Falls.
Mott's Letter to her sister Martha:
12th mo., 1848. ... If I did not iron twelve shirts, like cousin Mary, I had forty other things which I accomplished; for we had a large wash, and hurried to get the ironing away before the people flocked in. Five came just before dinner. I prepared mince for forty pies, doing every part myself, even to meat chopping; picked over lots of apples, stewed a quantity, chopped some more, and made apple pudding; all of which kept me on my feet till almost two o.c., having to come into the parlor every now and then to receive guests. Now I should rest, as I sit and write after dinner, with all gone to the Assembly Buildings . . . Have I mentioned what a large appointed meeting I had two weeks ago at Cherry St., and that the Elders would not give notice? The house was crowded nevertheless. The medical students, some of them, have asked me to have a meeting for them. . . .This meeting for the medical students was held one First-day evening of the following Second month, in the Cherry Street Meeting House. The congregation was large and attentive, as a rule, although, as she said in a letter to a friend,
When I pressed the subject of slavery upon their attention, some twenty or thirty rose to go out.As a center for medical education, Philadelphia attracted many medical students from the Southern states. In this sermon to medical students held in the Friends Meeting House, Mott created a well-remembered disturbance by her remarks against slavery directed towards an audience she realized would likely take objection. Addressing slavery as evil and sin, she challenger the audience directly to ask “How far, by permission, by apology, or otherwise, you are found lending your sanction to a system which degrades and brutalizes three millions of our fellow human beings ?” Later that year, Mott's "Sermon to the Medical Students" was published.
|A Sermon to the Medical Students|
Phila., 3rd mo. 1849. My dear Joseph . . . I must tell you what an exciting fugitive case we had last week. A citizen of Richmond, Va., called at the office and told Miller McKim and Cyrus Burleigh, that a slave in that city was meditating his escape by being placed in a box, as goods, lo be sent by Adams Express. He was told of the great danger of suffocation, as well as the risk of detection, but was not deterred. After some delays, a telegraph at length apprised Miller of his approach. The box was received at the depot, more carefully handled than it had been before, and safely deposited at the A. S. office, when a trembling tap, and "All right?" from Miller, was responded to by "All right, sir!" from the pent-up man. The lid was removed as quickly as the hoops could be loosened, when he rose, with a "Good morning, gentlemen!"
|Illustration of Henry "Box" Brown arriving in Philadelphia|
Miller says we can hardly conceive the relief and excitement to find the man alive, and the poor fellow's happiness and gratitude; he sung a hymn of praise. He is a large man, weighing nearly two hundred pounds, and was incased in a box two feet long, twenty three inches wide, and three feet high, in a sitting posture I He was provided with a few crackers, and a bladder filled with water, which would make no noise in being turned over, nor yet be liable to be broken; he however ate none, as it would have made him thirsty, and he needed all the water to bathe his head, after the rough turns over, in which he sometimes rested for miles on his head and shoulders, when it would seem as if the veins would burst. He fanned himself almost constantly with his hat, and bored holes for fresh breathing air, with a gimlet or small auger furnished him. The cracks of the box had canvas over, to prevent any inspection, and to appear like goods.
Dr. Noble says, if he had been consulted, he should have said it would be impossible for the man to be shut up and live twenty-four hours, the time it took to reach here; it was fanning so much, which kept the exhausted air in motion and gave place to fresh.
Miller took him home, gave him his breakfast and a bath, and then he was conducted here, where he gave us his history. His master is a sick man, and employs an overseer, heartless, as such generally are. He was never whipped however. He was employed twisting tobacco, and yielded his master two hundred dollars, or more, per year. He had a wife and three children sold from him a year ago, after their owner (not his master) had promised to let him purchase them; a higher offer inducing him to sell them. This almost broke his heart; and from that time he resolved on obtaining his own freedom; and having no family to provide for, he laid by enough to hire a white man to undertake his removal in the box. One colored man was in the secret, and assisted; these were all who knew it in Richmond. He had a sore finger, and applied oil of vitriol to make it worse, in order to get leave of absence for a few days, so that he would not be missed until Second-day, and he was safely here the Seventh-day before.
After resting First-day, he was sent on east. We hope the case will not be published, for a while at least.
His wife and children are now held by a Methodist minister in North Carolina; he has heard from them two or three times. This, and the Crafts case, as well as Isaac Brown's and others not a few, will tell well in history some time hence.In July, Lucretia's brother, Thomas Coffin, became ill with cholera. She went at once to his lodgings and nursed him till he died. She then had his body taken to her own home, and held the funeral from there. In the intense fear surrounding the epidemic, many of her friends thought this imprudent. In writing of it to her sister, she says: " How differently people are constituted and affected ! I loved to be with Thomas all the time, and to do for him afterward all that I could, in laying him out. I helped lift him into his coffin."
|"It is time that Christians were judged more by their likeness to Christ|
than their notions of Christ."
It is time that Christians were judged more by their likeness to Christ than their notions of Christ.
Were this sentiment generally admitted we should not see such tenacious adherence to what men deem the opinions and doctrines of Christ while at the same time in every day practise is exhibited anything but a likeness to Christ.
. . . He has astonished the world and brought a response from all mankind by the purity of his precepts, the excellence of his example. Wherever that inimitable sermon on the mount is read, let it be translated into any language and spread before the people, there is an acknowledgement of its truth.
When we come to judge the sectarian professors of his name by the true test, how widely do their lives differ from his?
Instead of going about doing good as was his wont, instead of being constantly in the exercise of benevolence and love as was his practice, we find the disposition too generally to measure the Christian by his assent to a creed . . .
Instead of engaging in the exercise of peace, justice, and mercy, how many of the professors are arrayed against him in opposition to those great principles even as were his opposers in his day.
. . . Is this honest, is this Christ like?
Should Jesus again appear and preach as he did round about Judea and Jerusalem and Galilee, these high professors would be among the first to set him at naught, if not to resort to the extremes which were resorted to in his day.
. . . We say "if Jesus should again appear" . . . He is here; he has appeared, from generation to generation and his spirit is now as manifest, in the humble, the meek, the bold reformers, even among some of obscure parentage. His spirit is now going up and down among men seeking their good, and endeavoring to promote the benign and holy principles of peace, justice, and love.
. . . Truth speaks the same language in every age of the world and is equally valuable to us. . .
When I quote the language of William Penn, "it is time for Christians to be judged more by their likeness to Christ than their notions of Christ," I offer the sentiment of one who is justly held in great regard if not veneration by this people, and whose writings may be referred to with as much profit as those of the servants of God in former ages; and we may well respect the memory of him and his contemporaries as well as of many not limited to our religious society, who have borne testimony to the truth. . . . Well did that servant of God, Elias Hicks, warn the people against an undue veneration of the Bible, or of any human authority, any written record or outward testimony. The tendency of his ministry was to lead the mind to the divine teacher, the sublime ruler, that all would find within themselves, which was above men's teaching, human records, or outward authorities. Highly as he valued these ancient testimonies, they were not to take the place of the higher law inwardly revealed, which was and should be, the governing principle of our lives.In December, Lucretia delivered the speech that would be published the following year as Discourse on Woman:
There is nothing of greater importance to the well-being of society at large —of man as well as woman—than the true and proper position of woman. Much has been said, from time to time, upon this subject. It has been a theme for ridicule, for satire and sarcasm. We might look for this from the ignorant and vulgar; but from the intelligent and refined we have a right to expect that such weapons shall not be resorted to,—that gross comparisons and vulgar epithets shall not be applied, so as to place woman, in a point of view, ridiculous to say the least.
This subject has claimed my earnest interest for many years. I have long wished to see woman occupying a more elevated position than that which custom for ages has allotted to her. It was with great regret, therefore, that I listened a few days ago to a lecture upon this subject, which, though replete with intellectual beauty, and containing much that was true and excellent, was yet fraught with sentiments calculated to retard the progress of woman to the high elevation destined by her Creator. I regretted the more that these sentiments should be presented with such intellectual vigor and beauty, because they would be likely to ensnare the young.
. . . The kind of homage that has been paid to woman, the flattering appeals which have too long satisfied her—appeals to her mere fancy and imagination, are giving place to a more extended recognition of her rights, her important duties and responsibilities in life. Woman is claiming for herself stronger and more profitable food. . . .Free discussion upon this, as upon all other subjects, is never to be feared; nor will be, except by such as prefer darkness to light. "Those only who are in the wrong dread discussion. The light alarms those only who feel the need of darkness."
. . . Walker, of Cincinnati, in his Introduction to American Law, says: "With regard to political rights, females form a positive exception to the general doctrine of equality. They have no part or lot in the formation or administration of government. They cannot vote or hold office. We require them to contribute their share in the way of taxes, to the support of government, but allow them no voice in its direction. We hold them amenable to the laws when made, but allow them no share in making them. This language, applied to males, would be the exact definition of political slavery; applied to females, custom does not teach us so to regard it." Woman, however, is beginning so to regard it. . . .
Let woman then go on—not asking as favor, but claiming as right, the removal of all the hindrances to her elevation in the scale of being—let her receive encouragement for the proper cultivation of all her powers, so that she may enter profitably into the active business of life; employing her own hands, in ministering to her necessities, strengthening her physical being by proper exercise, and observance of the laws of health.
|Brinley Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts|
|Paulina Wright Davis|
That motley mingling of abolitionists, socialists, and infidels, of all sexes and colors, called the Woman's Rights Convention, assembled in this city, to-day . . . It was a convocation calculated to strike terror into the heart of the stoutest man, and compelling him from a sense of fear, to put on his good behavior.
. . . Lucretia Mott, of Philadelphia, on the extreme right of the platform, appeared in the modest dress of a Quakeress--muslin cap and scarf, rich Quaker gown and white silk shawl. Her countenance wears the hard iron expression of General Suwarrow, all bone, gristle, and resolution. We should take her to be an elderly lady, indomitable as Caesar. . .
Miss Davis, on taking the chair, read a very elaborate, philosophical, socialistic address, on the wrongs and rights of woman. . . . Woman wanted an equal chance to the unfolding of her great capacities, and she was bound to have it. Society was in a state of barbarism, while it denied equality of privileges, political, religious, and all other privileges, and it must be reformed.
(While she was delivering this highly philosophical exposition of the wrongs and rights of woman, the attention of the audience was somewhat disturbed by the music of a hand organ in another room of the building, in which the American fat girl, sixteen years old and weighing 400 pounds, was being exhibited as a specimen of what woman would be if she had her rights. She ought, by all means, have been made president of the Convention.)
On the motion of Lucretia Mott, who considered the address a little too tame, the question of its adoption was left open for debate. It disclaimed the intention of open hostility against the existing laws of society, and for this disclaimer she [Mott] was not prepared. The sentiment ought to be conditional. Direct hostility might yet become necessary to woman in enforcing her rights. We don't want any milk and water policy of action. If the despotism of man has displaced woman from her proper sphere, we must tell him so--if the thing was wrong, we must declare it--the plain, naked truth, without disguise. From the manner in which woman had always been treated, it was argued that she was an inferior animal; but she contended that woman was the equal of man in everything pertaining to human rights. She justified the plain truth, however severe it might be. It was by bold and severe language of denunciation that William Lloyd Garrison had done so much to shake the foundations of slavery. We must use the armor of love and truth; but we must tell the truth without fear, and call things by their right names.
. . . The Convention re-assembled, according to order, at 2 o'clock.. . . Lucretia Mott next followed in some pointed remarks, exhibiting the present degraded condition of woman in civilized society. She has nothing but her outward semblance in her favor; when that ceases all respect for her vanishes; for an old woman is simply an object of ridicule, and anything that is ridiculous or foolish is said to be only fit for an old woman. In no respect had the rights of woman been as yet recognized in society. . . .
Recess till seven o'clock. . . . Lucretia Mott was determined not to ask as a boon what she could demand as a right. She complained that woman's labor was not appreciated--that she was a slave, and the slave of superstition, and paid too much devotion to the Bible. Let theology take care of itself. Theology had always given way when compelled to do it by the light of truth, as in the case of George Combe and phrenology. He was first attacked, and then the theologians found out, when science was too strong for them, that it [phrenology] was according to revelation. (Laughter) She thought the right of woman to cut throats, in resisting despotism, was a debatable question because many contend for the doctrine of moral suasion. But in demanding woman's rights, she wanted no twaddle, no milk-and-water, but the plain and naked truth.In 1847, Pennsylvania law had declared fugitive slaves to be free from the moment they set foot in the state. In response to the weakening of the original federal fugitive slave act, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 made any Federal marshal or other official who did not arrest an alleged runaway slave liable to a fine of $1,000 (about $28,000 in present-day value). Law-enforcement officials everywhere now had a duty to arrest anyone suspected of being a runaway slave on no more evidence than a claimant's sworn testimony of ownership. The suspected slave could not ask for a jury trial or testify on his or her own behalf. In addition, any person aiding a runaway slave by providing food or shelter was subject to six months' imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. Officers who captured a fugitive slave were entitled to a bonus or promotion for their work. Since any suspected slave was not eligible for a trial this led to many free blacks being conscripted into slavery as they had no rights in court and could not defend themselves against accusations.
William Adams, a member of the Cherry Street meeting, wrote in his diary:
Twelfth month 22d, 1850. Lucretia Mott came forth with a fresh testimony against slavery and the Fugitive Slave Law. She cited a case where a colored man from Jersey, coming from market yesterday, was arrested, bound and hurried away South, after undergoing a partial examination, which she considered illegal.In 1851, Noah Buley, Nelson Ford, George Ford, and Joshua Hammond, who were enslaved in Maryland, fled to the farm of William Parker, a mulatto who lived in Christiana, Pennsylvania. Parker, 29, was a member of the Lancaster Black Self-Protection Society; kidnapping of blacks were a common occurrence in the area. Local gangs who robbed farms and stole horses also had a lucrative business selling blacks into slavery. Parker was known to use violence to defend himself and the slaves who sought refuge in the area.
|Home of William Parker|
Rumors were rampant, and local newspapers acerbated the situation; the Philadelphia Bulletin wrote:
The melancholy tragedy of Christiana in this state by which two citizens of Maryland lost their lives has established in blood the dangerous character of the modern abolitionists.
|Magazine Illustration of the Christiana attack|
|Castner Hanway and his wife|
The guilt of this foul murder rests not alone on the deluded individuals who were its immediate perpetrators, but the blood stains with an even deeper dye the skirts of those who promulgated doctrines subversive of all morality and all government.
I remember seeing him one rainy day sitting in his big chair close by the window, intently reading some new book. It was before they moved out of town. When dusk came on, he was still reading, and the gas was lighted earlier than usual, that he might continue; when my bedtime came, — rather early in those days, — there he sat, still absorbed; and at breakfast the next morning, he was the object of general raillery, because he would not confess at what hour in the night he had stopped. The magical book was "Uncle Tom's Cabin," just published. Even our grandmother yielded to its influence, and listened without impatience to an occasional chapter, — she, who condemned novels, and wondered how any one could find them interesting.
|Uncle Tom's Cabin|
Lucretia Mott deserves signal mention for her long and efficient services in the cause of the slave. She was born in 1793, of Friend's (Quaker) parentage; and early took ground against slavery, in common with the general tenets of those Christians. She was the organizer of the American Anti-Slavery branch of that Society in Philadelphia; opposed the use of slave-grown products; and, as a preacher of the Society of Friends, denounced slavery in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. She was ever the friend of the slave in all her various relations in life. On a visit to Mrs. Mott, after I began the anti-slavery war, I was handsomely entertained at a dinner at her home, where the leading anti-slavery men and women of Philadelphia were present. The Friends, of Philadelphia, in a genial climate, and by the purity of their lives, were noted for their beauty of body and soul. At this dinner, also, Edward Purvis [actually Robert Purvis], a half-breed white and African, was present. His father was a ship-carpenter, and accumulated a large property. His son was well educated at home and abroad, and would have been regarded as a refined gentleman in any country. He sat opposite me at dinner, and by the side of one of the most lovely girls present.
This was the first time in my life that I had ever sat at table with a mulatto on terms of equality. Notwithstanding my advanced ideas in the direction of liberalism, I felt the greatest shock at this new relation of the races and the sexes; so that I imagine it must have been observed by all. After dinner, Purvis, with the address which comes of intercourse in many countries, sought me, and commenced a very agreeable conversation, till my prejudices were well nigh conquered. He said, on his return from Europe once, on the same vessel was a South Carolina family, including wife and daughters. They denounced negro-equality; but, taking Purvis for a Spaniard, or Italian, they danced with him — never suspecting his lineage. Such is the force of habit and prejudice.
. . . The prejudice of slavery will last in this country for centuries.
The two parlors, connected by folding-doors, were large, square rooms, of handsome proportion and home-like pleasant appearance. Although the furniture was old-fashioned mahogany and black haircloth, and ornaments were few, there was a general air of comfort and every-day use which was very attractive.
The carpet was sure to be of bright colors, and of rather striking design, for my grandmother cordially disliked what she called "dingy carpets." She also disliked the prevailing style of dark, heavily curtained rooms; and when she came into the parlor in the afternoon, would step quickly across to the windows, and draw up the green Venetian blinds, letting the sunlight stream in.
The dining room, a cheerful room towards thirty feet long, always had space for one more. The unexpected appearance of visitors at meal-time caused no flurry . . .In the early summer of 1853, their youngest child, Martha, who they called "Patty", married George W. Lord, and went away with him to a remote country home. The separation was a painful for her parents, as she was the youngest and the last. To a friend, who sent them a letter of mingled condolence and congratulation, James Mott replied:
6th mo. 29th, 1853. . . . Yes, Martha is married, and we feel lonely. . . . That many are disappointed in the marriage state, I have no doubt; but that ''not one in a thousand but is doomed to disappointment," I do not believe.
I have lived in that state for more than forty years, and it has been one of harmony and love, though we have had our trials and difficulties in life. As age advances, our love, if possible, increases.
This being my experience, I am in favor of matrimony, and wish to see all for whom I feel interested made happy in that way. It is the natural state of man, and when rightly entered into, an increase of happiness and comfort is the certain result. . . .The autumn of 1853 was another time of travel, attending conventions, and speaking; at the beginning of September, Lucretia Mott addressed the World Temperance Conference in New York City:
Any great change must expect opposition because it shakes the very foundation of privilege.
|Susan B. Anthony|
This is called a “Woman’s Rights Convention” but the phrase “Human Rights” would more appropriately express its principles and its aims.
. . . It has sometimes been said that if women were associated with men in their efforts, there would not be as much immorality as now exists, in Congress, for instance, and other places. But we ought, I think, to claim no more for woman than for man; we ought to put woman on a par with man, not invest her with power, or claim her superiority over her brother. If we do, she is just as likely to become a tyrant as man is; as with Catherine the Second [Catherine the Great of Russia]. It is always unsafe to invest man with power over his fellow being. “Call no man master” — that is a true doctrine. But, be sure that there would be a better rule than now; the elements which belong to woman as such and to man as such would be beautifully and harmoniously blended. It is to be hoped that there would be less of war, injustice, and intolerance in the world than now. Things are tending fast that way.
I see that some of you have got the spirit of a goose, and some have got the spirit of a snake. I feel at home here. . . . I am citizen of the state of New York; I was born in it, and I was a slave in the state of New York; and now I am a good citizen of this State. I was born here, and I can tell you I feel at home here. I've been lookin' round and watchin' things, and I know a little mite'bout Woman's Rights, too. I come forth to speak 'bout Woman's Rights, and want to throw in my little mite, to keep the scales a-movin'. I know that it feels a kind o' hissin' and ticklin' like to see a colored woman get up again; but we have been long enough trodden now; we will come up again, and now I am here.
. . . Now, women do not ask half a kingdom, but their rights, and they don't get 'em. When she comes to demand 'em, don't you hear how sons hiss their mothers like snakes, because they ask for their rights; and can they ask for anything less?
. . . We'll have our rights; see if we don't; and you can't stop us from them; see if you can. You may hiss as mush as you like, but it is comin'. . .
They hiss when an aged woman comes forth. If they'd been brought up proper they'd have known better than hissing like snakes and geese. I'm 'round watchin' these things, and I wanted to come up and say these few things to you, and I'm glad of the hearin' you give me. I wanted to tell you a mite about Woman's Rights, and so I came out and said so. I am sittin' among you to watch; and every once and awhile I will come out and tell you what time of night it is.
As the participants left Broadway Tabernacle, they were pushed and shoved by the mob. Mott later told her family that she asked her escort to look after some of the "timid" women who were being jostled. When asked, "But who will take care of you?", she answered, "this man," placing her hand on the arm of one of the men in the mob. The man, although surprised, led her safely out of the building and through the mob.
|Magazine illustration of Lucretia Mott leaving the building|
The Declaration of Independence as put forth at Seneca Falls....was measuring the people of this country by their own standard. It was taking their own words and applying their own principles to women, as they have been applied to men.
|Martha Coffin Wright|
|Frances Barker Gage|
The Cleveland newspaper, The Plain Dealer, printed an extensive account of the convention, saying of Ernestine Rose that she "is the master-spirit of the Convention. She is described as a Polish lady of great beauty, being known in this country as an earnest advocate of human liberty." After commenting on the bloomer costume worn by Lucy Stone, The Plain Dealer continued: "Miss Stone must be set down as a lady of no common abilities, and of uncommon energy in the pursuit of a cherished idea. She is a marked favorite in the Conventions."
I am not troubled with difficulties about the Bible. My education has been such, that I look to that Source whence all the inspirations of the Bible comes. I love the truths of the Bible. I love the Bible because it contains so many truths, but I never was educated to love the errors of the Bible …It is a far less dangerous assertion to say that God is unchangeable, than that man is infallible.
|Levi Coffin, center in top hat,|
with Jonathan Cable and some of the enslaved people they helped to escape
We left Cincinnati at eleven o'clk, and did not reach Maysville till ten at night. The banks of the river afforded a constantly varying scene, and we enjoyed the day, though there were no passengers that were attractive. John Pelham met us at the landing, with his carriage. . . . We were made so entirely at home by their Kentucky hospitality, that we soon felt like old acquaintances. . . . In the morning before we were up, a real slave-looking girl came in, sans ceremony, and made up the fire anew. We passed the next morning in free conversation. Their table was generous, as their reception in other respects. A meeting had been appointed for me in the Town Hall of Maysville, in the afternoon. There was a crowded house. Slavery spoken of without reserve, and well borne. Much persuasion to have another meeting in the evening — which we consented to . . . J. P. seemed satisfied with the meetings, though I learned afterwards that he had felt apprehensive, and had expressed a wish that I should be told not to speak on, or allude to slavery.In a letter to Lucy Stone, referring to this journey, James Mott wrote:
Steamboat Oakland. My dear Lucy, — Here we are on the way up the Ohio river, in a small but tolerably comfortable boat. . . . On reaching Maysville on Seventh-day eve, we found John Pelham (Martha's brother-in-law) waiting to take us to his house, on reaching which his sisters gave as a hearty welcome, and we had a pleasant visit. Yesterday after dinner we returned to Maysville to attend a meeting that had been appointed in the Court House at two o'clock. Theology, war, intemperance, and slavery were the topics dwelt upon; slavery was spoken to, plainly, and well received by a large and attentive audience. At the close, another meeting was appointed for the evening, on Woman's Rights. The house was more crowded than in the afternoon, indeed it was a jam; but quiet and good order were observed, and the gospel on this subject was preached with power and demonstration. At the close very many expressed their gratification and a desire to hear more. Lucretia told them they must get Lucy Stone to talk to them, that she was only as a John to prepare the way for Lucy and others, who could do the subject far better justice. We think thou wilt find an open door at Maysville. The meetings were both free. As Lucretia has never received money compensation for her own use for preaching or lecturing, she thinks it not worth while to begin to do so in her old age. The money that S. J. May is out of pocket for printing tracts will be paid to him out of the proceeds of the lecture at Cincinnati, and the balance handed to thee when thou comes to Phila.; so says the best woman I know in this world.
Martha Coffin Wright added to this letter:
Dear Lucy, — I don't know how brother James has done to write a word, the boat jars so; I must add, however, my wish that you will go to Maysville. A slaveholder said to me, that she thought it a great pity the meeting last night could not be followed by others, there was such a willingness to hear the truth. I never heard more earnest demonstrations, not by applause, but in remarks afterwards. My good brother-in-law, John Pelham, said to me before the first meeting, "I hope Mrs. Mott will not name slavery, — notice was given for a religious meeting." " Why," said I, " that is eminently a religious subject, and the people, believe me, will respect the free utterance of opinion far more than an unworthy concealment; besides, she considers herself called of God to speak on this very subject, it was for this she came, on the assurance of Col. Stetison that she might say what she pleased, and I dare not interfere with any one's convictions of duty." He still demurred, but I think he felt entirely satisfied after hearing he ; and she did not spare them. Of course I said not a word to her beforehand of this conversation.
Newspaper reports of these lectures included the following:
One of the largest audiences ever gathered within the walls of our spacious Court House was drawn thither on Sunday afternoon, to listen to the world-renowned Quaker, Mrs. Lucretia Mott. Curiosity prompted much the greater part; a few, however, expected, from the reputation that preceded her, to hear eloquently and plausibly put forth principles which found an echo in their own hearts. For an hour and a half she enchained an ordinarily restless audience (for many of them were standing) to a degree never surpassed here by the most popular orators. Mrs. Mott is an elderly lady, probably sixty-five, of a fair, full, round, cheerful countenance; a quick beaming eye; a smooth, even, quite pleasant, and rather musical voice; a calm, quiet, yet sufficiently earnest delivery; evidently a woman of strong mind, of determined will, an original and bold thinker, with nerve enough for any emergency. She said some things that were far from palatable to a Maysville audience, but said them with an air of sincerity and of plausibility that commanded respect and attention. She seemed delighted at the great degree of courtesy with which she was received and listened to. A good many did not know of her appointment for speaking at night, but notwithstanding, the Court House was crowded to its utmost capacity, — a larger, and if possible, more attentive audience than in the afternoon.
LUCRETIA MOTT. This bad woman, whose infamous calling is a war against the Constitution of the United States, a sacrilegious condemnation of the Holy Bible, preaching disobedience and rebellion to our slaves, was allowed the use of our Court House for the propagation of her infernal doctrines. We wish every citizen of Mason county to be made acquainted with the fact that the edifice which has been erected at their common cost, only to be occupied by those who were charged with the administration of justice, and the protection of their religious and political rights, has been again defiled by the presence of a foreign incendiary, proclaiming within its walls principles antagonistic to the law and peace of the commonwealth. Not more than a twelvemonth has gone, since its occupation for a similar purpose was the occasion of bloodshed and rancorous feelings not yet healed in our community. What will be the result of a visit from this female fanatic is not yet known; we should not be surprised, however, if it were the prelude to a heavy loss on the part of the slaveholders of the county, as a score or two of blacks were present to behold and hear this brazen infidel in her treason against God and her country.
Signed, A SLAVEHOLDERIn 1854, William Pelham visited Marianna in Philadelphia and was greeted warmly by Lucretia and James Mott. He was pleased at how "delicately they treated me, never in a single instance mentioning the subject of slavery except when brought up by myself." In a subsequent letter to Marianna recounting some of the history of the Pelham family, William made a special point of noting that one branch of the family "became embued with a spirit of emancipation, and liberated all of their slaves."
Lucretia Mott attended the Fifth Women's Rights Convention at Sansom Street Hall in Philadelphia in October 1854. Ernestine Rose was chosen president in spite of her atheism. Susan B. Anthony supported her, saying "every religion – or none – should have an equal right on the platform". Rose spoke out to the gathering, saying "Our claims are based on that great and immutable truth, the rights of all humanity." Henry Grew took the speaker's platform to condemn women who demanded equal rights. He described examples from the Bible which assigned to women a subordinate role. Lucretia Mott debated him, saying that he was selectively using the Bible to put upon women a sense of order that originated in man's mind. She said
The pulpit has been prostituted, the Bible has been ill-used... Instead of taking the truths of the Bible in corroboration of the right, the practice has been to turn over its pages to find examples and authority for the wrong.William Lloyd Garrison stood up to halt the debate, saying that nearly everyone present agreed that all were equal in the eyes of God.
The Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society maintained a Vigilance Committee that was charged with assisting runaway slaves in Philadelphia. In 1855, as the result of an 1852 reorganization, the acting subcommittee consisted of four men with William Still as chair. Only one of the four was white: Passmore Williamson, a birthright Friend. Williamson had been disowned in 1848 for neglecting to attend meeting, but he continued to live a Quaker lifestyle for the rest of his life.
|John H. Wheeler|
Of all the parties to the act of violence, he was the only white man, the only citizen, the only individual having recognized political rights, the only person whose social training could certainly interpret either his own duties or the rights of others under the constitution of the land."
|John Kintzing Kane|
|Moyamensing Prison in Philadelphia|
Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune covered the case extensively and through its widely circulated daily and country editions, spread the story throughout the nation. Antislavery weeklies, like The National Anti-Slavery Standard published in New York, William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator out of Boston, The National Era in Washington, D.C., and Frederick Douglass’s newspaper from Rochester, covered the story in every issue and liberally quoted supportive comments from northern newspapers. The Hartford Religious Herald editorialized
A tyrannical judge is one of the vilest and most dangerous of despots. We refer to Judge Kane of Philadelphia. Fellow citizens of the North, let us unite to free our country from this degrading bondage of the Slave Power.
No man who carries his Negroes into a Free State is deserving of any sympathy in his loss. He invites it, with an assurance that the invitation will be accepted.
one of those fiery zealots in the cause, who would make a saint of a runaway Negro no matter how worthless and degraded. His whole nature seems perverted, and the channel of sympathy to his heart clogged for everything else but a black skin and a woolly head.
|Passmore Williamson in his prison cell|
During the trial, Mrs. Mott was in attendance to give sympathy or help as occasion might offer; and when the poor woman was hastily taken from tho room, and placed in a carriage to be driven rapidly away, under an armedguard, she sat by her side. To that sanctuary of refuge, Mr. and Mrs. Mott's house in Arch Street, they hastened. Entering at the front door, and quickly passing through the house, Jane Johnson reentered the carriage at the rear, and was taken to a place of safety. In that moment of intense excitement, when every one else was wholly absorbed in the one thought of escaping pursuit, it occurred to Mrs. Mott that Jane might be hungry, as she had had no dinner. Seizing apples and crackers from her storeroom, and potatoes from the kitchen fire, she ran with them to the carriage.
In September the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, on appeal, affirmed Kane’s action. Rumors circulated that President Franklin Pierce threatened to have Williamson placed in military custody should the court free him.
As protests continued, Kane’s resolve weakened. He offered to release Williamson if he would change his testimony to agree with Kane’s contention that he was the controlling party in the episode. Williamson refused, affirming, "my return is the truth & the whole truth. It will neither be retracted nor amended."
Kane finally relented and, on November 2, accepted from Williamson testimony he had denounced in August as false, cleared him of contempt, and set him free. Wheeler withdrew his complaint on November 3, 1855.
The Judge's son, Thomas L, Kane, had held a position as a Clerk of the District Court in eastern Pennsylvania. An abolitionist, Thomas Kane was distressed at the passage of the Compromise of 1850 and the associated Fugitive Slave Act, which increased his legal responsibility to return fleeing slaves to southern territories. He tendered his resignation to his father, who had the younger Kane jailed for contempt of court. The U.S. Supreme Court overruled this arrest. Although the public breach between father and son was well known, Thomas and his wife Elizabeth continued to live at the home of Judge Kane. The Judge ignored the unidentified Negroes whom Thomas brought to their home, only to take them to other stations on the Underground Railway, later in the night. Although Judge Kane felt himself required to enforce Federal Slavery Laws, he colluded with the anti-slavery acts of his son.
In education, in marriage, in religion, in everything, disappointment is the lot of woman. It shall be the business of my life to deepen this disappointment in every woman's heart until she bows down to it no longer.The Seventh Annual Women's Rights Convention was held at the Broadway Tabernacle in New York City on November 25–26, 1856, Lucy Stone served as president, and recounted for the crowd the recent progress in women's property rights laws passing in nine states, as well as a limited ability for widows in Kentucky to vote for school board members. Lucretia Mott encouraged the assembly to use their new rights, saying, "Believe me, sisters, the time is come for you to avail yourselves of all the avenues that are opened to you."
|"Roadside", the Motts' home in Chelten Hills|
During the winter of 1856, it became apparent that Lucretia Mott could no longer bear the strain of keeping house in the city. She was weary with entertaining so much, and being called hither and yon as if she were public property. She was weary of presiding at public meetings, of attending executive committees, and of seeing strangers. It seemed sometimes as if she could not call an hour of the day her own; all sorts of people came to her with their affairs, and no one appeared to realize that she might have affairs of her own. She was becoming worn out, and some change was necessary. In this emergency it was finally decided to sell " Three- thirty-eight," and to buy in its place a certain little farmhouse eight miles out of town on the Old York Road, just opposite Oak Farm, where some of her children already lived. This was accordingly done; but not without mourning and lamentation from those of the family left in the city, and keen regret on their own part that the community life must come to an end. It had been proved an entire success in every way; and the old house was endeared to all by many pleasant associations.
. . . Soon after moving into the country, while on her way to the railway station, then at Front and Willow streets, she saw in a second-hand store a child's high-chair, which she bought, to serve as an extra one in the family. (In passing, I ought to say that she seldom could go by that second-hand store without making some purchase.) The chair was sent to the station, put on the cars, and put off at the usual stopping-place, a mere shed on a side lane. Contrary to custom, no carriage met her, and no person was in sight. She stopped to think what could be done with the chair, for it was hardly safe to leave it where it was; then saying to herself with a little laugh, "It is not heavy," she took off her bonnet, tied the strings together and hung it on her arm, and, placing the chair upside-down on her head, walked slowly across the fields to the house, nearly a quarter of a mile, unseen by any but her own astonished household.
In looking back now, I can recall no other room so attractive in its homely air of comfort, as the old-fashioned parlor at Roadside. It was neither artistic nor elegant, but it was lived in, every day, and bore that indefinable mark. . . . In the south end was the library, a small square room, lighted by two windows, and a glass door opening out to the piazza. This little library was the sanctum, the gathering place of the family in the morning, the quiet retreat in the evening from the lively groups in the parlor. Two book-cases held the well-worn volumes, and from the walls looked down the faces of William Lloyd Garrison, William Ashurat, George Thompson, Elias Hicks, Miller McKim, Robert Purvis, and some members of the family. On one side of the fireplace was tacked a small map of Nantucket Island, and another of the town, after the great fire of 1846, while near by there hung a sort of genealogical chart, with Tristram Coffyn at its centre. My grandfather's high, straight-backed chair stood at one side of the fire near the light of the western window, and in the comer behind it was the table, which in family parlance was called " the colt," because of its long legs. In the middle of the room, opposite the open Franklin stove, stood my grandmother's rocking chair, and her two-shelfed table, the latter covered with books, papers, and writing materials, systematically arranged, and never disturbed but by her own hands. A pretty Nantucket basket, devoted to carpet rags, and another sacred to mending, occupied part of the lower shelf. Here she sat every morning after her regular work was done, first to glance over the "Ledger," and then to settle accounts, or write letters, or read some of the various books of interest at the time.
. . . They had both been trained to economy in a hard school, where pennies and half pennies had to be accounted for with conscientious scruple; and when the time came that extreme care was no longer necessary for themselves, they continued it in order to be able to help others. The amount they gave away was a large portion of what was never more than a moderate income. It was not given to ordinary charities, as a rule, but was quietly passed over, five dollars here, ten there, or fifty, perhaps, to help some poor overworked seamstress to a holiday, to alleviate a case of temporary distress, or to furnish an unexpected treat to some self-denying drudge. They liked to supply to others what some one has called the "necessary superfluities of life," although denying them to themselves. In one of her letters, Lucretia Mott says, "James and I both feel that the pleasure will be far greater in using what we may have, above our own wants, for the help of those dear to us, and of others, too, now while we live, rather than to leave it for the law's division, or indeed for appropriation by legacy."
They are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word "citizens" in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and Government might choose to grant them.Justice Robert Grier, who had presided over Castner Hanway's trial after the Christiana incident, was one of the justices who agreed with the majority opinion.
In 1859, William Pelham was again in Philadelphia, as was Martha Coffin Wright, and she reported they had "some talks on Slavery," which he bore well, "not being one of the fierce & excitable kind." Yet she sensed that the topic was beginning to strain their relationship. William Pelham had just been re-appointed as Surveyor General of New Mexico by President Buchanan, but was sure he would lose his position if the Republicans were elected in 1860.
Daniel Dangerfield had been arrested in Harrisburg by an armed U.S. Marshal claiming that he was a fugitive from the ownership of Elizabeth Simpson of Virginia. People in Harrisburg knew the arrested man as Daniel Webster -- a "peaceable, honest, and industrious" fence-maker. Marshals sent him immediately by train to Philadelphia so as to avoid demonstrations or attempts to free him in the town. Under the law, slaveholders need only sign affidavits like the one sworn against Dangerfield. Bystanders were required to help marshals grab their victims. Federal commissioners decided the cases, and defendants could not testify. The law, in historian Eric Foner's words, "made slavery a national institution."
On Monday, crowds numbering in the thousands waited outside
I ventured to step forward, and, in an undertone, expressed to him the earnest hope that his conscience would not allow him to send this poor man into slavery. He replied that he must be bound by his oath of office.
The other discrepancy was height: the Virginians said the missing slave was about 5-foot-6. Longstreth had the prisoner stand and be measured. Brewster objected: "Get his boots off, your honor." Webster removed his boots. Longstreth made a note: boots on, 5-foot-10; boots off, nearly 5-9. As the lawyer for the side that generally said Negroes were better off enslaved, Brewster could hardly argue that, after five years' freedom, a man might stand taller.
Final arguments began Tuesday evening and lasted through the night. By noon on Wednesday, anticipation of a verdict was "painful" in intensity, McKim wrote. At 4 p.m., the courtroom filled again. "All was silence and suspense," Mary Grew wrote, "and none dared hope for a favorable conclusion." Longstreth began reading his decision. He noted that along with property, the case "involved the liberty or bondage of a human being." He said the slaveholders had proven a lawful claim on Daniel Dangerfield, who had fled in 1854. But the testimony persuaded him that the defendant in the courtroom had lived in Harrisburg since 1853. When Longstreth noted that Webster was 5-foot-10 -- taller than the fugitive -- tears and hurrahs filled the room. Longstreth ordered the prisoner "discharged."
127 S. Twelfth St. Phila. April 7th. 1859
My dear husband--
My last letter was delayed longer than I meant it should be and I am hardly rested enough from the exciting attendance at Court to be able to write now, but while every body is taking a nap I will give you a little history of our movements. I believe I told you that Miller feared there was no hope for the slave, but he was anxious that as many as could should go to the Commissioners office on Monday. Sister L. wrote to me to meet her there at 91/2. So Ellen and I started at 9 . . .we had leisure to admire the neatness of the office, a little back room, not half so large as your office. I doubt whether any but the claimants & witnesses & counsels would have been admitted, if we had not got foothold. People soon began to look in at the half glass door, and try the latch; Ellen helped me find out the secret of it, and we open’d the door for Sister L, Mrs. McClintock, Mrs. Truman, Anna Brown & others of our family & friends, & when the commissioner came from his back entrance, he must have been astonished to find a perfect jam. He said this case was not one for a town meeting. I will send you the papers telling of the adjournment to the Court House. When we got there there was a perfect jam and the door closed against us the moment they got the slave in amid the roars of the crowd.
Charles Walton had Ellen & Anna Davis under his care, and I kept by Sister L. & Miller McKim. It was very evident that none but the claimants and their friends were to be admitted, but by going round to another door, we got in and were fairly lifted from our feet by the pressure of the crowd to the little jury room. The glass was broken from the door, but we got the places we wanted. Sister L. held on to the slave & kept close by him all the time. The heat became almost insupportable, but we remained there till 1 P.M. & then adjourned to 4. We went early, & got in with less difficulty, but Mr. Furness who had dined with us at Edw. Hopper’s was excluded, & they wd. only admit ladies--by sending for the counsel however a good many managed to get in.
Thomas Mott, Charles Walton, & his brother, Ned Hallowell and other persevering ones. Abm. Barker & wife & many others of our friends, so that the room was nearly as crowded as the little jury room, tho’ twice as large. Sarah & Rebecca Yarnall went with us, on Tuesday. They adjourned between 9 & 10 to 4 P.M. on Tuesday. Sister L. & I dined at br. Benjamin’s & went early, but found the room nearly full. The excitement of the day before, and the heat of the room made me sick--my throat was inflamed & I had fever, but determined to remain as long as I could keep up. I could only stand it eight hours and then had to leave with Sarah & Rebecca at 1/2 past 11. They would have liked to stay longer, but Sarah urged me to go, seeing how sick I was.
Mary Grew begged me not to leave. I told her there was no hope for the slave & I was too ill to sit up. Thomas & Marianna & Miss Quincy were out at two parties & the girls had gone to bed, so being unable to get in, I waited on Sarah & Rebecca home, and staid all night there. Found in the morning that the decision was postponed to 4 P. M.--and then came home and went to bed, determined to go live or die. Took Belladonna & Mercurius--got up at 1/2 past 1--ready to receive Sister L. who came here to dinner, and accompanied by Thos. & Marianna Ellen & the Miss Waltons & Miss Quincy we started at 3--found a crowd at the door, many of them policemen, they said they had strict orders to admit only Mrs. Mott--we remonstrated, but finding them inexorable, Thos. advised her to go in, so she did, but we maintained our ground & at last they relented & let us in.
The first day Sister L. sat by the slave but the other days they took care to surround him. An old black man said if Mrs. Mott didn’t have a high place in Heaven he didn’t want to go there.
No one believed there was the remotest chance for the slave, it was therefore a joyful surprise when we found he was likely to be released. The officers couldn’t prevent the cheers that followed, and Charles Walton threw up the window & gave the word to the crowd below thronging the street. The slave was hurried into a carriage & borne off by his excited friends, and after dark they paraded up Arch Street to 13th, and past here giving before Edward Hopper’s and here “Three cheers for Lucretia Mott.”
You never saw such an excited & happy crowd--they had a carriage drawn by some of the crowd, with a long rope. Sister L. went out of town immediately after the decision. I was invited to go with her and spend the evening at Miller’s but did not feel well enough--did not expect even to sit up to hear Miss Quincy sing to a small company invited here, but felt a little better after tea & kept up.
Anna Hopper & Liv & Anna Davis were here notwithstanding. Anna D. & Ellen had seen the sun set and rise in the court room--they remained with Sister L. till the adjournment--after 6--Anna & Liv went home at 3 A. M. The party here was pleasant, every body was so elated at the unexpected decision. Miss Q. sang beautifully. She trembled with excitement, in court, and was very much overcome, as were some others at the decision, but said she wd. not have missed being there for a thousand pounds. She has always been so carefully guarded from everything, her brothers being rather conservative, that they would not have thought of the possibility of her being in such a crowd, but I have no doubt the determination of respectable people to witness the proceedings & to show their sympathy for the slave had a good effect. The counsel were serenaded last night. Perhaps you would rather I wd. not have written so much about it, and I would not, if there had been anything else, but I have neither seen nor heard anything else.
The National Woman's Rights Convention was held in New York City again, with Lucretia Mott presiding. It was a one-day meeting, on May 12, 1859. At this meeting, speakers were interrupted by loud disruptions from opponents of women's rights.
Our Annual Fair was in quiet and successful progress, when we were surprised by an order from the mayor of the city to take down our flag. Its picture of the old Liberty Bell, with the well known inscription, "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, to all the inhabitants thereof," was regarded as an incitement to riot."
This action was soon followed by the entrance of the sheriff, who took possession of the hall, locked its doors, and thus closed the business of the Fair. The managers assembled in the room to take counsel together, and decideupon the best suitable course tor them to pursue.
Mrs. Mott spoke in reply to the statements of the sheriff and his lawyer. She said that she was glad to help her friend, Mr. Gilpin, express regret for this occurrence; she well remembered some service of his rendered to the anti-slavery cause in earlier days; that we did not reproach the officers for their part in this affair, we were so sorry for them that they hold offices which obliged them to perform such deeds.At the 24th annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, October 25-26, 1860,
The National Anti-Slavery Standard reported that Lucretia Mott was glad that the Society did not sanction the measures resorted to by John Brown:
Our principles lead us to reject and to intreat the oppressed to reject all carnal weapons, relying solely on those which are might through God to the pulling down of strongholds. We did not countenance force, and it did not become those--Friends and others--who go to the polls to elect a commander-in-chief of the army and navy, whose business it would be to use that army and navy, if needed, to keep the slaves of the South in their chains, and secure to the masters the undisturbed enjoyment of their system--it did not become such to find fault with us because we praise John Brown for his heroism. For it is not John Brown the soldier that we praise; it is John Brown the moral hero; John Brown the noble confessor and martyr whom we honor, and whom we think it proper to honor in this day when men are carried away by the corrupt and pro-slavery clamor against him. Our weapons were drawn only from the armory of Truth; they were those of faith and hope and love. They were those of moral indignation strongly expressed against wrong. Robert Purvis has said that I was "the most belligerent non-resistant he ever saw." I accept the character he gives me; and I glory in it. I have no idea, because I am a non-resistant, of submitting tamely to injustice inflicted either on me or on the slave. I will oppose it with all the moral powers with which I am endowed. I am no advocate of passivity. Quakerism, as I understand it, does not mean quietism. The early Friends were agitators; disturbers of the peace; and were more obnoxious in their day to charges, which are now so freely made, than we are.
|Marianna Pelham Mott|
Talladega Ala12th March 1861
Your letter of the 21st of Decr was quite a treat. I enjoy’d your home thrusts at the Seceeders very much. You are as much mistaken in regard to the privacy of our letters as you are about our institutions & prospects generally. I will admit that you live in a government more despotic than the Austrian but deny that I do.
Now Aunt Martha just lay aside your abolition prejudices one moment & say if you dont like the bold stance the Cotton States have taken? It would have been better if we had disolved our connexion with the Mother Government years ago--but we are now clear of it & the day is not far distant when our Southern flag shall be omnipotent from the gulf of Panama to the coast of Delaware “when Cuba shall be ours,” when the western breeze shall kiss our flag as it floats in triumph from the guilded turrets of Mexico’s capital, when the well clad, well fed, Southern Christian Slave shall nightly beat his Tamborine & Banjo amid the orange bowered groves of Central America; and when a Pro Slavery Legislature shall meet in council in the Halls of the Montezumas.
Many changes have taken place since I received your letter--in fact too many for me to devote much attention to any of them--one among the many is--that on the 22nd Jany I was married in Louisville Ky to Miss Lulie Johnston--Daughter of Hon. Geo W Johnston,--Judge of the City Court of that city. Aunt Ann Miller--Carrie & Henry Pelham were at the wedding. Carrie has grown to be a beautiful & accomplished young lady. Henry is a junior at the Ky Mil Inst--a fine dashing young man--will make a fine officer. He is decidedly Southern in his feelings and I trust will some day hold a commission in the Southern Army.
One Hundred & Eighty of our boys went about three weeks since to Fort Morgan near Mobile. Nearly all of them my personal friends. Many of them my old School Mates and boon companions--several of them near relatives & among the number was my brother William. Three Hundred volunteered for 12 months but gov. Moore only received 180 of them. Bro Will is now in Fort Morgan--and we just dare Old Abe to attempt to retake the property he calls “public.”
You ask if Bro John has seceeded? He has not but he expects to every day he has his resignation written out, his permission in his pocket and a Commission of 1st Lieut in the Confederate Army and as soon as it is probable there will be an engagement he will leave in six hours. Gov Moore & his friends at the Capital wanted him to come home in Jany but he preferred to stay till he graduated unless actual hostilities began. The appropriations for the Military academy were made before Ala seceeded & he is the only student remaining from Ala to reap the benefit of the money Alabama appropriated through the United States to the Mil Academy.
Your allusion to the mulatto race was an unfortunate one for while Mulattos in the South are the offspring of the male Stage drivers & School teachers who come from the north. Your Mulattos are a necessary consequence from the great number of females in the north who marry Buck negroes. Your own Statistics show this to be a fact. To the credit of the government in which I live be it said there is no such record. Nor is there an instance of that kind in the whole of the Cotton States. I would not refer to this had it not been called out – in answer to what you wrote.
We boys are all secessionists but Pa & Lulie (my wife) are very conservative--we call them submissionists. My partner cast the vote of Ala in the Baltimore convention for Stephen A. Douglass. You can guess his politics from that. You complain of the way abolitionists are treated in the South. We hung one to a china tree on the square last Oct without a Judge or Jury--we tried three negroes by a jury of citizens & hung two of them before court. I had no hand [in] it but many of our best citizens did. Pa asked me to assure you of his continued love & esteem. Lulie sends her love.Soon after this letter, Charles Pelham entered the Alabama Infantry. He and his five brothers all served in the Confederate Army. Charles' brother, John, referred to in the letter above, became a Confederate artillery officer. John's skill and courage caused General Robert E. Lee in late 1862 to praise him as "gallant Pelham." Martha's son, William Pelham Wright, named after her brother-in-law, served as First Lieutenant in a Union artillery battery, and unknowingly faced John Pelham, a Confederate artillery officer, across several bloody battlefields. John Pelham, only 24, was killed in battle in the spring of 1863. John Pelham remains today a revered hero of the South.
Lucretia and James Mott celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on April 10, 1861. According to Anna Hallowell Davis:
On the tenth of Fourth Month, 1861, James and Lucretia Mott celebrated their Golden Wedding. On this bright sunny day in Spring the large family, and many friends from far and near, assembled at Roadside to do honor to the venerable bride and groom. Children, grandchildren, and one tiny greatgrandchild, were there; and of the one hundred and twenty-five witnesses who, fifty years before, had signed the wedding certificate in Pine Street meeting, three of the twenty still living were present to record their names in renewed recognition of the solemnity of the marriage tie. The old document, parchment yellow with age, was brought out, and again read aloud.Two days later, Confederates bombarded Fort Sumter, and the Civil War began.
The Mott's son-in-law, Edward M. Davis, had joined his parents-in-law in supporting the New England Non Resistance Society, organized in 1838 to advocate the use of non-resistance in the defense of escaped slaves and the response to hostile mobs. However at the time of the Civil War, he felt it would be necessary to fight, and accepted a commission in the U.S. Army. As a result, he was removed from membership in the Race Street Meeting of the Society of Friends. His wife, Maria Mott Davis, resigned at that time. During the Civil War, Edward Davis he served under General Charles Fremont in the war, and helped to establish the Union League to raise and support troops. When the first black regiment was authorized in 1863, he donated his property, Oak Farm in Chelten Hills, to the army to be called Camp William Penn for the training of these troops.
Camp William Penn was the first training ground dedicated to African American troops: some 11,000 free blacks and escaped slaves were trained here, including 8,612 from Pennsylvania, the most black troops recruited during the war from any northern state. Originally, the camp was to be named after Lincoln's Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, but, when final plans were approved, the camp was named William Penn. The camp, which was fully operational by July 4, 1863, served as the training ground for eleven regiments comprising nearly 11,000 men in its two years of existence.
Because of continuing racism, the black troops were not treated equally. Many soldiers complained of harsh treatment. Still, Camp William Penn symbolized an advancement of importance for African-Americans. Although the white community seemed to lack tolerance for the soldiers, Colonel Louis Wagner insisted that his black soldiers ignore segregationist policies.Edward and Norwood Hallowell, brothers-in-law of Mott's granddaughter, Anna Davis Hallowell, served as colonels in two famous African America regiments, the 54th and the 55th Massachusetts Volunteers.
In January 1864, the Friends Association for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen was formed. The Motts suggested a committee to "investigate the exclusion of the people of color from the passenger cars." William Still had organized a boycott of the streetcars by black people.
In 1864, the Motts and other Hicksite Quakers incorporated Swarthmore College, located 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia. Swarthmore College was to establish a place "under the care of Friends, at which an education may be obtained equal to that of the best institutions of learning in our country." The yearly meetings of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York aided in establishing the college on wooded land where students would have the advantages of "healthful country living as well as intellectual and moral training." Friends in these meetings summarized the needs they saw for a Hicksite college. Three were essential: coeducation, in keeping with Quaker teaching about equality of the sexes; emphasis on natural sciences, which were seen as a source of much practical knowledge; and a place where Quaker children could receive a "guarded" education.
In April 1865, the Mott's daughter, Elizabeth, who was ill with cancer, moved in with them at Roadside, to be cared for by Lucretia. A short time later, they heard the news of Lee's surrender at Appomattox - and then of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Lucretia wrote to Martha:
Roadside 4th mo. 17th, 1865. My dear Sister, — A beautiful day ! When a great calamity has befallen the nation, we want the sun to be darkened, and the moon not give her light; but " how everything goes on," as Maria said after her dear little Charley died, just as though such an awful event had not occurred. Was there ever such universal sorrow?
. . . Men crying in the streets . . . The overwhelming news stunned us, and we could hardly attend to our household duties. . . . Such a display of mourning, as now in the city, was never before. All business is suspended. The children have festooned drapery along the length of our piazza. I objected at first, but finding that Edwd. D. hod brought out a quantity of black muslin, and wished much to do it, I didn't care; and James made no objection, when he saw it.
Miller is much interested in the new Union Association, and the paper to be called the "Nation."
Believing that the "spirit of slavery" still continued in the country, the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society met in January 1866 and decided to continue. Although some members proposed disbanding, Mott declared that
to dissolve now would be to desert the Slave's cause, as human beings are still virtually held as Slaves in defiance of the law.In 1866 Mott joined with Stanton, Anthony, and Stone to establish the American Equal Rights Association. The following year, the organization became active in Kansas where black suffrage and woman suffrage were to be decided by popular vote, and it was then that Stanton and Anthony formed a political alliance with George Francis Train. Kansas failed to pass both referenda. Mott was horrified at the alliance of Stanton and Anthony with Train. In a letter to her sister, Martha, she said that she did not intend to subscribe to their newspaper, The Revolution. She was concerned that Train's racism was a bad influence on Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In November, she wrote in a letter:
New York, 11th mo. 12th, 1866. . . . Patty went with me yesterday to Elizabeth Stanton's to lunch, Lucy Stone and S. B. Anthony meeting us there; the time all taken up in discussing the coming convention . . . Elizabeth was like herself, full of spirits, and so pleasant. . . This Equal Rights movement is no play — but I cannot enter into it! Just hearing their talk and the reading made me ache all over, and glad to come away and lie on the sofa here to rest . . . Tomorrow we lunch at Sarah Hicks', and then come back to company to tea; something all the time. On First-day I dined at Hannah Haydock's after Fifteenth st. meeting; found S. B. Anthony waiting for me to go somewhere in a carriage with her to meet Horace Greeley and an Hon. Mr. Griffing. I just couldn't do it. Moreover, Susan and some others wanted me to go hear Beecher and have him talk with us afterwards, preparatory to his speech in Albany, — but I couldn't do that any more than the other! There is no rest !
. . . I was wondering, the other day, what use the increasing number of churches would be put to, as civilization outgrew them.
|Ralph Waldo Emerson|
The requirements of truth have ever been similar in all ages and as nations have been prepared by circumstance to receive it, they have ever found it requiring “righteousness and true holiness.” I want this age to be more zealous of good fruits of everyday righteousness and true holiness in business, in all transactions of life. Hearing last night some of your politicians talking together about the corruption in this state and in Pennsylvania I said, why is it that your religion is not brought into politics? Why is it that your religious worship has regard to Sabbath day devotion rather than an every day truth? Why is it that you are not uplifting the poor and the lowly?
— Lucretia Mott, Second Unitarian Church, New York, November 24, 1867
|Martha "Patty" Mott Lord|
As he breathed his last, in a peaceful sleep which no one recognized for a while as death, his wife, worn with the night's watching, rested her head on his pillow and slept too. In the silent dawn of that winter morning, their daughter looked with awe upon those two still faces; one calm in eternal rest; the other, in serene unconsciousness of the sorrow which would greet her waking.
. . . She never again slept in the chamber which she and her husband had occupied together, — a bright sunny room at the south end of the house, — but took for herself a tiny little place, called in the family, the "middle room," with a window to the east, commanding the sunrise.Under English common law, widows were entitled to one-third of their husband's estate for life. Most states followed this practice, but Pennsylvania placed restrictions on what a widow would normally inherit. James Mott, however, left Lucretia $10,000 outright and placed the rest of his estate in trust, with Lucretia as the sole beneficiary of all rents, profits and interest. By 1880, when Lucretia died, James Mott's estate was worth $117,669, equivalent in 2011 to over $2 million dollars.
Mott was elected the first president of the American Equal Rights Association, an organization that advocated universal suffrage. Mott tried to reconcile the two factions that split the following year over the priorities of woman suffrage and Black male suffrage. She also became increasingly active in Peace Unions and ecumenical work:
I heard George Thompson, after residing in British India, speak of an organization found there the members of which did not believe in war, who would have nothing to do with warlike actions. These evidences in all parts of the world are the fullest testimony to the teachings of the divine spirit, independent of man’s teachings, showing that the same divine principles of goodness and love are to be found wherever man is found, in whatever age or nation or country to some extent …If we read the researches and examinationsof those who dare to think for themselves, who dare to publish to the world their thoughts, we shall find that the truth has been the same in all ages of the world, that it has ever been given as far as people have been prepared to receive the idea that “God is the teacher of his people himself.” We do not need to depend upon ministers, bibles, pulpits, teachers of any kind. We can go directly to the fountain head …We must look for truth and love for it is from the Eternal source of light. Then let truth ever be our guide.
~ Lucretia Mott, “Religious Aspect of the Age,” Race Street Meeting House, Philadelphia, January 3, 1869Later in January 1869, Mott was in Washington, D.C. for the Equal Rights Convention and a meeting of the Universal Peace Union. At the Equal Rights Convention she reiterated that the weapons to be used in the struggle for the rights of humanity were "moral weapons" and that the program of the Equal Rights Association included suffrage for the Negro was well as for women. One critical writer described the women at the Equal Rights Convention as
Lunatics . . . as homely an assemblage as would well be brought together . . . large, rawboned, masculine specimens of the feminine portion of the human species. . .However, the same writer said that Lucretia Mott, who had a "refined and beautiful expression of countenance" was an exception.
Mott also spoke at the Unitarian Church in Washington, and a correspondent for the Lewiston Journal wrote:
So inspired by love of humanity was all she said, that each one present felt his heart throb and glow with nobler thoughts, higher inspirations and deeper love to his fellow-men, as he listened.In November 1869 at the inauguration of Swarthmore College, Mott and her son Thomas planted two oak saplings that had been raised from acorns placed in the ground at Roadside by James Mott. She addressed the gathering, saying she hoped the training would enable the students would "be prepared to recognize good wherever found,", but she warned against "skepticism which sometimes grows out of the study of Science and unaccompanied by religious faith."
|The Motts planting two oak saplings at |
Swarthmore College, November 1869
She was 75 yrs. old. We were like twin sisters 10 months the longest time we were ever separated. The loss is very great to me. My sister Martha Wright was with her during her illness. She is still here & a great comfort to us to dwell on her bereavet. together. I expected to go first & now so soon to follow, it may seem that at our age I might rejoice rather than mourn but all our speculations as to "What we shall be are unavailing," when the heart is torn.On November 13, 1870, after hearing Mott speak at a meeting, Alfred H. Love wrote in his diary:
She urged work and an active religion & said - "this formal waiting upon the Lord even sitting still may be abused," & then again - "active labor is better for that is waiting upon the Lord." She was excellent & to me so inspiring I own to feeling the full force of some of her remarks as though directed at me.Mott became involved in the "Mothers' Day for Peace" events in the summers after the war. The "Appeal to womanhood throughout the world" (later known as "Mother's Day Proclamation") by Julia Ward Howe, was an appeal for women to unite for peace in the world. Written in 1870, Howe's "Appeal to womanhood" was a pacifist reaction to the carnage of the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. The appeal was tied to Howe's feminist conviction that women had a responsibility to shape their societies at the political level. In 1872 Howe asked for the celebration of a "Mother's Day for Peace" on 2 June of every year. (The modern Mother's Day in May is an unrelated celebration, established by Anna Jarvis years later.)
Mott continued to comment on many aspects of contemporary life:
1st mo. 20th, 1871. Every foot of added room in building adds to the work of a house. When I see a family of two or three in a large double house, the Indian wigwam seems desirable, rather than the constant toil of our so-called civilization; and especially is this the case when the time of young mothers is absorbed in elaborate dresses for their children.In May 1871, she wrote to Richard Webb about the death of her longtime friend Abby Kimber, saying it was "a severe blow." The following year, Marianna Pelham Mott, her niece and daughter-in-law, died of a stroke in Switzerland.
William Still published his history of the Underground Railroad in 1872, writing:
Of all the women who served the Anti-slavery cause in its darkest days, there is not one whose labors were more effective, whose character is nobler, and who is more universally respected and beloved, than Lucretia Mott.
You cannot speak of the slave without remembering her, who did so much to make Slavery impossible. You cannot speak of freedom, without recalling that enfranchised spirit, which, free from all control, save that of conscience and God, labored for absolute liberty for the whole human race. We cannot think of the partial triumph of freedom in this country, without rejoicing in the great part she took in the victory.
Lucretia Mott is one of the noblest representatives of ideal womanhood. Those who know her, need not be told this, but those who only love her in the spirit, may be sure that they can have no faith too great in the beauty of her pure and Christian life.
This book would be incomplete without giving some account, however brief, of Lucretia Mott's character and labors in the great work to which her life has been devoted. To write it fully would require a volume. . . . It was because she believed in human virtue, that she was enabled to accomplish such a wonderful work. She had the inspiration of faith, and entered her life-battle against Slavery with a divine hope, and not with a gloomy despair.
. . . That spirit of benevolence which Mrs. Mott possesses in a degree far above the average, of necessity had countless modes of expression. She was not so much a champion of any particular cause as of all reforms. It was said of Charles Lamb that he could not even hear the devil abused without trying to say something in his favor, and with all Mrs. Mott's intense hatred of Slavery we do not think she ever had one unkind feeling toward the slave-holder. Her longest, and probably her noblest work, was done in the anti-slavery cause.
"The millions of down-trodden slaves in our land," she says, "being the greatest sufferers, the most oppressed class, I have felt bound to plead their cause, in season and out of season, to endeavor to put my soul in their soul's stead, and to aid, all in my power, in every right effort for their immediate emancipation."
When in 1833, Wm. Lloyd Garrison took the ground of immediate emancipation and urged the duty of unconditional liberty without expatriation, Mrs. Mott took an active part in the movement. She was one of the founders of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1834.
"Being actively associated in the efforts for the slave's redemption," she says, "I have traveled thousands of miles in this country, holding meetings in some of the slave states, have been in the midst of mobs and violence, and have shared abundantly in the odium attached to the name of an uncompromising modern abolitionist, as well as partaken richly of the sweet return of peace attendant on those who would 'undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke.'"
In 1840 she attended the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London. Because she was a woman she was not admitted as a delegate. All the female delegates, however, were treated with courtesy, though not with justice. Mrs. Mott spoke frequently in the liberal churches of England, and her influence outside of the Convention had great effect on the Anti-Slavery movement in Great Britain.
But the value of Mrs. Mott's anti-slavery work is not limited to what she individually did, great as that labor was. Her influence over others, and especially the young, was extraordinary. She made many converts, who went forth to spread the great ideas of freedom throughout the land. No one can of himself accomplish great good. He must labor through others, he must inspire them, convince the unbelieving, kindle the fires of faith in doubting souls, and in the unequal fight of Right with Wrong make Hope take the place of despair.
This Lucretia Mott has done. Her example was an inspiration.
. . . Since the great law was enacted, which made all men, black or white, equal in political rights—as they were always equal in the sight of God—Mrs. Mott has made it her business to visit every colored church in Philadelphia. This we may regard as the formal closing of fifty years of work in behalf of a race which she has seen raised from a position of abject servitude, to one higher than that of a monarch's throne. But though she may have ended this Anti-slavery work, which is but the foundation of the destiny of the colored race in America, her influence is not ended—that cannot die; it must live and grow and deepen, and generations hence the world will be happier and better that Lucretia Mott lived and labored for the good of all mankind.In 1873, Mott heard that President Grant was visiting Jay Cook's Mansion in nearby Chilton Hills. She decided to go and see him to plead for the lives of twelve Modoc Indians who had been condemned to death for the uprising in 1872. Her son-in-law, Edward Davis said, "Mother, thee has no invitation . . . etiquette demands thee to send first and see if it will be agreeable and convenient." Mott replied, "My spirit says go and it will not wait for etiquette." Grant received her and said, "Madam, they shall not all be executed."
|Edward M. Davis|
I too was sticken with deep sorrow over the departure of a dear daughter . . . a longed-for termination of a fatal malady - Death then losing his sting. Still even thus, the tender ties of nature & affection are not severed without many a pang strong tho faith may be in the beautiful "spirit life."
The following month, Anna's 18-year-old son, Isaac Hopper, died of typhoid fever.
Martha Coffin Wright's youngest daughter, Ellen, had married William Lloyd Garrison, Jr., son and namesake of the abolitionist leader. In December 1874, Martha traveled to Boston to assist the Garrisons at the birth of her fourteenth grandchild, William Lloyd Garrison III. Martha took ill there with typhoid pneumonia, and died in Boston on January 4, 1875, at the age of sixty-eight. Susan B. Anthony was shocked at the news, and wrote in her diary, "I could not believe it; clear-sighted, true and steadfast almost beyond all other women!" Her death came a day after Lucretia's 82nd birthday. Martha was her youngest sister and the last of the siblings.
|Anna Hallowell Davis |
with her grandmother,
In 1878, Mott delivered her last public address in Rochester, New York on the 30th anniversary of Seneca Falls Convention. Anna Hallowell Davis wrote:
In after days her feeling about music changed, and although she never quite approved of its use in a solemn gathering, as being frivolous, she did not oppose others who wished it, and ceased to regard it as objectionable in itself.
During the latter thirty years of her life, her grandchildren's piano stood in her parlor, and none enjoyed more than she, the simple melodies played upon it. Her favorites were "John Brown," " Dixie," and "Old Folks at Home."
When we were sometimes moved to smile at her vain attempts to hum one of these, she would notice our amusement, and, sharing it, say, "My mother used to say to me, when I tried to sing, ' Oh, Lucretia, if thee was as far out of town as thee is out of tune, thee wouldn't get home to-night. ' "
The year before she died, when she was obliged to give up her life-long habit of early rising, and to spend weary hours in bed, she used to get a sweet voiced little great-grandson to sing to her every morning, while he was dressing in the next room. The song was always "Old Folks at Home," over and over again. Then the little fellow would be called to her bedside to receive the penny that she had ready for him under her pillow.
Shortly before Lucretia Mott died, she said:
Weep not for me. Rather let your tears flow for the sorrows of the multitude. My work is done. Like a ripe fruit I admit the gathering. Death has no terrors for it is a wise law of nature. I am ready whenever the summons may come.Lucretia Mott diedof pneumonia on November 11, 1880 at her home, Roadside, in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania. She was 87 years old.
She was buried in the Quaker Fairhill Burial Ground in North Philadelphia.
|Grave of Lucretia and James Mott|
As I began the work as appertaining only to my Grandmother I soon discovered that she was accompanied even in my thoughts by my Grandfather, and that it would be difficult for me to write or one without the other or attempt to give an idea of her life wihout presenting side by side, the complementary account of him.She based her book on letters from and to the Motts, but found that many letters had already been subject to her grandmother's frugality:
Our grandmother had very little sentiment in her composition. No matter how good the letter, after it had been shown to every member of the family who could care to see it, and had reposed a reasonable time in the little rack on her writing table, it was twisted up for kindling for her wood fires. In her visits to Auburn, she destroyed — or "used" — in like manner all the letters of her own writing that she could find.
|Frontispiece portrait of Mott|
from the book published in 1884 by her granddaughter, Anna Davis Hallowell