Weld, Theodore

Social Reformer


Theodore Dwight Weld was born in Hampton, Connecticut, on November 23, 1803. He entered Hamilton College in 1823, but in 1825 joined Charles G. Finneys "holy band" of evangelists and for two years preached in western New York. In 1825, he also entered the Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, New York, to prepare for the ministry.

About 1830, Weld was recruited to the antislavery movement by Captain Charles Stuart, principal of the Utica (N. Y.) Academy, who provided for part of Weld's expenses at Oneida. Weld converted the Tappan brothersof New York to abolitionism; and in 1831, he persuaded them to contribute to the Lane Theological Seminary, then being built.

Unfortunately, he was expelled from Lane in 1834 when he tried to found an antislavery society there. Angry, he led the majority of the student body to Oberlin College, and set out to rouse popular support for the American Anti-Slavery Society. He took over the Societys publicity and conducted a successful pamphlet campaign in which he anonymously wrote widely distributed essays. As well, using Finney‚s revival methods, he preached emancipation and won to the cause hundreds of advocates and workers, among them Angelina Grimke, whom he married in 1838.

His voice soon broke, however, and he had to resign from the Society.

But he continued to reach the public through his publications at this time: The Bible Against Slavery (1837), and Slavery As It Is (1839).

Between 1841-43, he lobbied in Washington D. C. for an antislavery block in the Whig party. And although he soon retired from public affairs, he continued to make a number of personal appearances before antislaveryand Republican audiences.

Called the "greatest abolitionist," he never actually published anything under his own name, and refused to acknowledge public acclaim.

He died in Hyde Park (now in Boston), Massachusetts, on February 3, 1895.