|William L. Clements Library|
The University of Michigan
Theodore Dwight Weld, born in Connecticut, was raised near Utica, N.Y. Here he met Charles Stuart, whose financial support permitted Weld to enter Oneida Institute in 1827 to study for the ministry. Under Stuart's influence Weld was converted to the antislavery cause.
When the Tappan brothers of New York organized an antislavery society in 1831, Weld attended. Later he was commissioned by the Tappans to select a theological seminary in the West for them to endow. Weld chose Lane Seminary at Cincinnati and persuaded many of the Reverend Charles Grandison Finney's converts to study there.
When the American Anti-Slavery Society was formed, it began a pamphlet campaign which met resistance in both North and South. Weld returned to Lane Seminary to study in 1833 and organized a debate on slavery which converted a large number of students to the abolitionist cause. The Lane Seminary trustees expelled Weld's followers, many of whom were persuaded to become itinerant lecturers for emancipation. With Weld they preached the sinfulness of slavery and dwelt on emancipation as a revival in benevolence. their work firmly established the movement in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and western Massachusetts.
The success of Weld's agents caused the American Anti-Slavery Society to abandon its pamphlet campaign and sponsor these local volunteers. Weld, with Stanton and Whittier, chose many new agents and trained them in a conference meeting in 1836. These lecturers consolidated the antislavery movement throughout the North, and under Weld's direction they deluged Congress with antislavery petitions. the drive for signatures was bolstered by the publication of tracts, and Weld wrote three of the four most popular ones. the consequent rise of numerous local antislavery societies and the controversial activities of William Lloyd Garrison led to the dissolution of the national society in 1840. Garrison packed the last American Anti-Slavery Society convention with his delegates and won the society's name for his own group or reformers in New England. The original Tappan group subsequently formed the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.
During the training conference Weld met Angelina and Sarah Grimké, daughters of a distinguished, slave-holding family of Charleston, South Carolina. the Grimké sisters had become convinced of the evil of slavery and moved to Philadelphia to join the Society of Friends. they wrote and lectured for the antislavery cause and for women's rights, becoming the first American women to publicize the movement. Weld married Angelina in 1838 and they had three children.
In 1841 Weld went to Washington and for two years served as a lobbyist for the insurgents trying to form an antislavery bloc in the Whig party. With his wife and Sarah, Weld then retired from public life. None of the three could make the choice between Garrison's methods and Tappan's 'womanless' society, nor did they believe with James Birney that the time was ripe for a separate political party. They settled in Belleville, New Jersey, and opened a school, later directing the progressive school of the Raritan Bay Community in New York. The three were active as writers and lecturers during the Civil War and finally moved to Hyde Park, Massachusetts, where they continued to work for social reforms until their deaths.
Papers of Theodore Dwight Weld (1803-1895), Angelina Grimké Weld (1805-1879), and Sarah Moore Grimké (1792-1873), American abolitionists, reformers.
This collection contains numerous drafts of Weld's letters, the letters which he and the Grimké sisters received, letters from Angelina and Sarah to Weld, numerous essays by Weld and the Grimkés. Six diaries written by Angelina, 1828-1833, and eight diaries kept by Sarah, 1819-1836. Because Weld and the Grimké sisters were unusually articulate, introspective individuals, their letters present a remarkable record of their thoughts and concerns. They correspond with a wide range of reformers and religious leaders, making their a valuable research collection for a number of areas in addition to the antislavery movement.
Gift of Louis D. Weld, 1939-1942
A substantial selection of the Weld-Grimké correspondence has been printed in Gilbert Barnes and Dwight Dumond's Letters of Theodore Dwight Weld, Angelina Grimké Weld, and Sarah GRimké, 1822-1844, 2 vols. (N.Y., 1934)
See also: Henry Gilbert Papers. Henry Gilbert was Theodore Dwight Weld's cousin.
Brief guide to manuscripts collections