Logo Historical Accountability Student Research Program

Abolition and Dartmouth

Dartmouth Abolition Society

Mss 842526.2, Correspondence of the Abolition Society of Dartmouth, asked U.S Representative William Slade to speak at the College abolition society. Congressman Slade wrote this letter to decline due to troubling matters within Congress. Suggests that there was a substantial amount of people within the Abolition Society at Dartmouth.

MSS 838554, Letter from William Frederick Wallis '41 to Lewis Sawyer of Berlin Massachusetts, written 1838. Wallis says he recently put his name to the constitution of the abolition society, which numbers about 150. The society engaged the “best portion of the students.” He writes that most of the faculty are abolitionists as well. In general, the campus seemed sympathetic to the abolitionists. In total the society fundraised around 100 dollars. He then mentions that the college admitted a Black student named Paul (Thomas Paul 1812-1885) who Wallis writes is “a person of most amiable qualities.” 

Mss 837163, Letter from David Youngman Jr. '39 to the Sr., presumably in an attempt to convince his father to change his views. Youngman Jr. writes that he helped form an abolition society at Dartmouth. Concerning campus culture, he notes that about half of the campus considers slavery a sin. 

Mss 837251, Letter from David Youngman Sr. in Franklin TN to Youngman Jr. at Dartmouth, wherein his father writes that he does not agree with his son on abolition. Instead, the writings his son sent were nothing but “heated exaggerations” and that he lives harmoniously with his slaves.

The Colonization Society 

The Hanover Colonization Society, different ideologically from the Abolition Society, was deeply tied to the religious organizations of the area. Views were generally favorable to the society, but one letter from William Porter perhaps describes a student’s critical view of the society.

MS-420, Box 1, Folder 21, The Constitution of the Hanover Abolition Society, devoted to the colonization of the African coast by free people of color in the United States.  The Society’s constitution establishes the group’s imperative connection to New Hampshire’s statewide Colonization Society, solidified by the attendance of Hanover members at the annual state-wide meeting in Concord. Additionally, their general purpose is to “amplify” the statewide Society. 

Mss 838372, Letter from John Church to Samuel Fletcher '10, where Church suggests that clergy should take up collections on (or on a Sunday near) the 4th of July for colonization. Church refers to helping "our colored brethren" colonize the Coast as a "benevolent, Christian enterprize."

Mss 822128.1, Letter from Joshua Abbott to Samuel Fletcher concerning the Colonization Society. He feels that the death of the Winns (likely referring to Jonathan Winn) is a fatal blow to the colony. 

Mss 841107.1, Letter from Dorus Clarke to Samuel Fletcher, updating him on the Colonization Society’s activities. Commissioned by the Board of Managers for the Colonization society, Clarke is raising $12,000 and is seeking wealthy gentlemen to help in the funding. He lists some of the donors that have already contributed and asks Fletcher to refer to him more potential donors in New Hampshire. Clarke also informs Fletcher of an upcoming convention of Society members. 

Mss 839521, Letter from William Porter '40, writing about both the new abolitionist and colonialist societies that have been created, which stirs up a “mighty breeze” and “excitement.” The author speaks negatively of the colonizationalists, saying that they don’t care about Black people any more than they do dogs. Porter leaves out judgment of the abolitionists, thereby perhaps implying his partiality to the club. 

Thomas Paul

Class of 1841, Paul was the second Black man to graduate from the College. He was both written about and gave speeches himself.

Thomas Paul (1841) Alumni File

See also: Thomas Paul Speech to Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Association in 1841 (link):

Paul calls upon both American religion and an American philosophy for the abolition of slavery. He also points out a deep irony of America’s espoused belief that “all men are created equal” and the reality of slavery. Paul concludes with a patriotic appeal concerning the “wings of the American Eagle” spreading covering the oppressed.  

Daniel Webster

Webster, class of 1801, wavered in his position on slavery and abolition. While he expressed abolitionist tendencies in these letters, he later supported the Fugitive Slave Act.

Mss 850217.3, Daniel Webster letter to Reverend Hitchcock. Webster writes to Hitchcock about religion and the ethical conundrum that slavery stirs in him. 

Mss 833162, Letter from Daniel Webster to Stephen White. Webster agrees with White’s views on “the removal of the Slaves” (presumably abolition), and says that he will express these opinions when convenient. However, Webster writes that "it is better for the Southern Gentlemen to take the lead," and for themselves to simply support the movement financially. He hypothesizes that a year of controversy and then elections in Virginia will perhaps settle matters there. 

Mss 838129, Letter from Daniel Webster to Benjamin Silliman. Webster writes that his own anti-slavery feeling grows stronger day by day. He writes that his own policy is not to yield the “substantial truth” for conciliating those whom we can never conciliate. This is a very solid, determined stance on the issue of slavery from Daniel Webster, especially in comparison to the previous letter. 

Mss 836203, Washington March 3, 1836. Webster read several weeks ago about various petitions on the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and seems to be comparing the content and timelines proposed by each.

Mss 815265, A petition to Congress from women calling for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. Calls upon the “enlightened and liberal government.”

Student Opinions

The student body leaned pro-abolition generally. Students attended abolition lectures and wrote about the anti-slavery movement. 

MS-656, Box 1, Diary [6], Diary of Richard Emerson Lane '41. Entries include descriptions of lectures given to the anti-slavery society by Rev. Mr. Roof. Mr. Lane is particularly moved by them.

MSS 840377, Letter from George Plummer Hadley '40 mentioning he attended an abolition lecture by a Black man named Lewis. Hadley compares Lewis favorably to other abolitionist lecturers, who he felt were less fair and more "ranting." The lecturer may have been Lewis Clarke or Lewis Hayden, both African American anti-slavery lecturers active around this time.

MS- 1290, Box 1, Folder 5, letter 64, Amos Merrill writes to Dearborn and mentions some of his observations in his time in the south. Uses racial slurs to describe enslaved people. Writes that southerners generally are very much opposed to the abolition societies of the North. He also says that if anything were to split up the union, it would be slavery.

MS-543, Luther Townsend '39 mentions slavery at Dartmouth and how there was a growing resistance to it. However, Townsend himself was unbothered by the events--he speaks of them in passing.


Funding was an important aspect of the abolitionist movement and the successful fundraising of New England Abolitionists demonstrates the success of the abolition movement in the area.

Mss 839375, Henry Brewster Stanton asks for money for the abolitionist cause.

MS- 1137, Box 1, Folder 10, Last Will and Testament of Oliver Smith, Esquire. Includes $10,000 for use of the American Colonization Society specifically for transporting people of color to Liberia. Overseers are to ensure that the funds are applied in practical situations for individuals with the proper circumstances. This fund is one of many philanthropic funds in this will; others include funds for indigent boys, girls, and widows.


MS-767, Box 1, Folder 3, Correspondence from George Barrows '42 to John Barrows '42. There were Dartmouth Medical school students and a professor of Greek at Dartmouth that were at the Lane seminary when there was a rise in radicalism to abolish slavery. Reverend. Mr. George Whipple mentions that there was a Dartmouth student that was a rebel at Lane. Mentions Parker Pillsbury, Stephen Symonds Foster, Alanson St. Clair.

MSS 838350, Fundraising letter by Henry B. Stanton to Capt. Joseph Morrill, gives a sense of urgency to the cause.

MSS 831473, Letter by Henry Clay to Thomas Speed Esq. where he writes that slavery in the U.S. and West Indies is on the track of “premature abolition.” Describes the legislature as polarized.

MSS 838124, Isaac Fletcher '25 writes that abolition is an exciting but unfortunate topic, because he believes succession would cause damage to the south. Also, he was serving as Chairman of the Committee on Patents at the time and one of his contacts, the Commissioner of Patents, gave him new grains from Nova Scotia to plant.

MSS 848661, Letter from W.E. Bennett to Capt. A. Partridge '06, he discusses the politics and bad blood between the North and South, written by a slave owner. 

MS-72, Box 1, Folder 149, Letter From W.B. Smith to Hale Congratulating him on his speech for abolition, calls upon religious themes concerning abolition.

MS-1077 Collection includes “Stephen Symonds Foster: ‘Ultra’ Abolitionist” a thesis by David MacGilvray. Foster '38, and was a man with “a predilection towards radicalism” in his early days. His passionate speeches for abolition in town halls and churches often ended in violence against him, which often turned into riots. He wrote and disseminated “The Brotherhood of Thieves,” an abolitionist publication which even denounced the role of the churches in perpetuating slavery. Later, under the sponsorship of the American Anti-Slavery Society and States Societies, he traveled across the country to speak at anti-slavery conventions. Generally, his fiery speeches and radical methods granted him both fame among New England Abolitionists and the title of radical. 

Underground Railroad (Local)- vertical file

- “Underground Railroad: Though Details of its Existence are scarce, the network passed this way,” by Jerold Wilkoff for Valley News. Article tells of a woman in Lyme who found a small hidden passageway with some shoes and a hat. Although the details are fuzzy, Lyme was a major station on the underground railroad. The author then tells of a known account of Edmond Barrett in Hartland Four Corners who assisted fugitives in their journey to Canada.

- Upper Valley Magazine article from 1991 titled “Did the Train Stop Here?” by Lauri Berkenkamp

The author talks to multiple historians about the underground railroad in the area. The historians do not agree on the prevalence of the railroad in the Upper Valley, some saying it is more of a myth perpetrated by modern residents, and others think it was more prevalent. Dartmouth history professor Jere Danielle, explains that after the civil war people wanted to claim that they had been a part of the Underground Railroad, thereby constructing today’s data. 

See Also

Dartmouth & Slavery Project A collaboration between Professor Deborah King and College Archivist Peter Carini critically examining Dartmouth's historical connections to the transatlantic slave trade.

Note: This list is not an exhaustive representation of all materials in Rauner Special Collections Library on the above subject(s). To search for additional sources, use the library catalog or online finding aids.

Credit to Queen Eche '24, Tiffany Chang '23, and Connor Schafer '25 for researching, compiling, and formatting this bibliography.

Last updated: January 2024

Go to top of page