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Thu, 06.27.1805

Henry Stanton, Abolitionist born

Henry Stanton

*Henry Stanton was born on this date in 1805.  He was a white-American abolitionist, social reformer, attorney, journalist, and politician.  

Henry Brewster Stanton was born in Preston, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Stanton and Susan M. Brewster. His father manufactured woolen goods and traded with the West Indies.  He remembered his first desires for racial justice dated from his childhood, as he listened to a slave sing: In my childhood, we had a Negro slave whose voice was attuned to the sweetest cadence. Many a time did she lull me to slumber by singing this touching lament [the song of Miantonomi]. It sank deep into my breast and molded my advancing years. Before I reached manhood, I resolved that I would become the champion of the oppressed colored races of my country.  

Stanton became well-known as an orator and writer and used these skills as a journalist, attorney, and politician. In 1826, Stanton began writing for the Monroe Telegraph in Rochester, New York. It was owned by Thurlow Weed and was then promoting the presidential candidacy of Henry Clay. He began to make political speeches.  Stanton also wrote for the New York Tribune, the New York Sun, and The Liberator.   He began studying at the Oneida Institute but was part of a group of 24 who left in 1832 for Cincinnati, Ohio, to study theology at Lane Seminary.  However, Stanton chose to start working in the abolitionist movement before completing his studies.  

After his marriage, Stanton studied law under his father-in-law Daniel Cady in Johnstown, New York.  His wife, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, cousin of Gerrit Smith, became very much involved in progressive social issues. She worked for temperance, the abolition of slavery, women's rights, and universal suffrage.  The couple was married on May 1, 1840, and their wedding trip was spent in Europe, where he was a delegate to the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London that began on June 12, 1840.  Together, they were the parents of seven children.  After attending the first World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840, Stanton spent several months on an anti-slavery European speaking tour, touring most of the principal cities of England, Scotland, Ireland, and France.  

After passing the bar, he became a patent attorney in Boston, Massachusetts. Both he and his wife were actively and prominently engaged in the anti-slavery movement.  Due chiefly to Stanton's ill health, the family moved to Seneca Falls, New York, in 1847, where they resided in a house that Daniel Cady purchased. In Seneca Falls, Stanton continued his work in reform, journalism, and politics, often traveling, speaking, and writing on behalf of abolition. While living in Seneca Falls, Stanton helped organize the Free-Soil Party (1848) and the Republican Party in 1856. He was elected as a member of the New York State Senate (25th D.) in 1850 and 1851.  Stanton was widely recognized as a premier American orator on social issues, and he was a primary spokesman for the abolitionist movement before the American Civil War.

He was known for his skill in extemporaneous speaking. His wife reported that he was occasionally asked to speak on a random topic for the audience's amusement.  Throughout their lives, Henry Stanton and his wife traveled widely, jointly and separately, speaking and organizing for social causes that included temperance, abolition, and women's rights. When Henry died unexpectedly of pneumonia on January 14, 1887, his wife was in London speaking on behalf of voting rights for women. 

Abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass provided Stanton's son, Theodore, with this memory of the first time he heard Henry B. Stanton speak in public: “When I was escaping from bondage, I was received under the humble but hospitable roof of Nathan Johnson, an old colored man. ...Nathan Johnson also told me all about Henry B. Stanton's wonderful oratorical powers and took me one evening to hear him denounce the slave system. It was one of the first abolition lectures I ever heard, and this circumstance, combined with the eloquence of the speaker, left an ineffaceable impression on my mind. Your father was then unquestionably the best orator in the anti-slavery movement. I listened to him on many other occasions, but this first one, when I was fresh from slavery, naturally touched me the most deeply.”  

Stanton's publications included many pamphlets on social issues. He wrote the book-length Sketches of Reforms and Reformers in Great Britain and Ireland (New York, 1849), examining British social conditions and activists. In addition, he was finishing the fourth edition of his autobiography Random Recollections (1885) at the time of his death. 


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