Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18




Elizur Wright, Jr., and the

Emergence of Anti-Colonization

Sentiments on the Connecticut

Western Reserve



Probing the origins of reform sentiment is the sort of sleuthing particu-

larly attractive to students of social history. The Connecticut Western

Reserve has evoked considerable scholarly discussion, much of which

vastly over-simplified the interaction of reformers with their environ-

ment. The origins of sentiments in the Western Reserve in opposition to

schemes for colonizing American blacks in Africa and elsewhere is a

case in point. "Anti-colonization," as it came to be called, represented

the opening wedge for people moving toward acceptance of the notion of

abolition of slavery rather than a gradualist or accomodationist senti-

ment toward it.

In a pathfinding study of abolitionism, Gilbert H. Barnes indicated

that Theodore Dwight Weld traveled to Hudson, Ohio in the thick of the

Western Reserve, and converted three of the faculty of tiny, rudimen-

tary Western Reserve College to the anti-colonizationist immediatism

promoted by William Lloyd Garrison. In his uneven biography of the

enigmatic Weld, Benjamin Thomas argues that in fact the three college

professors, Charles Backus Storrs, Beriah Green, and Elizur Wright,

Jr., converted the itinerant Weld, rather than vice-versa.2

When doing subsequent study, historians seem required to choose

sides between these two interpretations. Interestingly, the conflict

seems to resolve itself in a way that exonerates neither author. Rather, it

points to the potent influence of time and social conditions as primary

motive forces. Weld, for his part, had been moved toward immediatism

prior to his trip north to Hudson through the influences of socially

sensitive reformers in southern Ohio and Kentucky, including James



Dr. French is Dean of the Faculty and Professor of History at Lake Erie College.


1. Gilbert H. Barnes, The Antislavery Impulse, 1830-1844 (New York, 1933), 33-40.

2. Benjamin P. Thomas, Theodore Weld: Crusader for Freedom (New Brunswick,

1950), 36.