Ohio History Journal

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Theodore Dwight Weld's

Antislavery Mission in Ohio


Since the pioneering work of Gilbert H. Barnes and Dwight L.

Dumond, Theodore Dwight Weld has been a favorite subject of study

for historians interested in the religious roots of the antislavery

movement. Son of a Connecticut Congregational minister, Weld was

finally converted to evangelical reform in 1826 by the great New York

evangelist, Charles Grandison Finney, whose controversial "new

measures" provoked so much debate among Yankee Presbyterians and

Congregationalists. The evangelical commitment moved many to help

uplift the slave, but Finney sought souls more than converts to

abolitionism, thereby leaving inspiration for the antislavery crusade to

Weld, considered by Barnes and Dumond the movement's "man of

power, the greatest individual factor in its triumph."1

Weld has been given particular credit for the expansion of evangel-

ical abolitionism to the antebellum midwest. After instigating the

famous dispute at Lane Seminary over the discussion of immediate

abolition, Weld and his handpicked disciples tramped Ohio in 1834-36

to spread God's antislavery word. Indeed, Weld and his band of

followers preached the antislavery gospel so well that Barnes and

Dumond went so far as to claim that the area of Weld's antislavery

agency in Ohio, western Pennsylvania and New York, "and the

regional chart of antislavery societies in the West of 1837 coincide."2

Written in the Barnes and Dumond tradition, Benjamin Thomas's

biography of Weld further suggests that by 1836 the antislavery agent's





Vernon L. Volpe is Assistant Professor of History at Kearney State College.


1. Barnes and Dumond, eds. Letters of Theodore Dwight Weld, Angelina Grimke

Weld and Sarah Grimke, 1822-1844, vol. 1 (American Historical Association, 1934;

reprint edition, Gloucester, Mass., 1965), xix. Theodore Smith had mentioned Weld's

role in The Liberty and Free Soil Parties in the Northwest (New York, 1897), 11-13, 16,


2. Barnes and Dumond, Weld Letters, 1, xvii-xviii. See also Gilbert Hobbs Barnes,

The Anti-Slavery Impulse, 1830-1844 (American Historical Association, 1833; reprint

edition, New York, 1964).