The following excerpts from documents in state libraries, archives and historical societies help illuminate facets of life in Connecticut under slavery, and during its abolition.


From a letter written by Lizzie Goodwin to her Aunt Emma Whipple, June 11, 1854.

... I like Mr. Whipple myself very much and if he wasn't an abolitionist I should feel much more amicably disposed towards him, but since mother is married to him I am afraid he may make her ... a violent abolitionist too, which she never was before. I was so afraid [that] in the great fugitive slave excitement in Boston she might be drawn into some extravagance of conduct. I am glad he was carried off in triumph. Frank is very well and I will give your love to him the next time I write which will be soon.
The collection of the Connecticut Historical Society

From a letter written by Maria Sarah Williams of New Haven to Augustus Street, Feb. 23, 1836.

... In my letter to Sis, I gave her an account of the wretched condition of some Negroes who occupied a pen in the yard attached to the house. They were all shipped today on board a schooner for Charleston to be sold. Wretched as they were appearing in the yard, as I saw them from my window I realized their misery still more as I saw them on their way to the vessel. I should think more than half had scarcely clothing enough to cover them; not one of them had a shoe and but two any thing upon their heads and I was told they had barely enough to eat to keep them from starving ....

... How little does the situation of these poor wretches compact with the statements of Mr. Hammond of South Carolina in his speech on the subject of abolition in the district of Columbia. He says that the slaves at the south are better fed, better provided for, better clad and more happy and contented than any other laboring class in the universe. It is all a lie.
The collection of the Connecticut Historical Society

From the proceedings of the Connecticut State Convention of Colored Men, held at New Haven, on Sept. 12-13, 1849.

... Let it be remembered brethren, that these and other measures are proposed in answer to the general question, "What shall be done?" and not as a means necessary to entitle us to enfranchisement. Our title to that is perfect, already; for did we, as a mass, possess every qualification requisite to the good citizen in the highest perfection, nothing material would be added to the strength of our claim to the franchise. Our only argument for that is, and must ever be, the broad and convulsive one, that it is OUR RIGHT as native born Men, Citizens of this great Republic, and members of the Commonwealth of Connecticut ... Let us arise in our might, and scatter the living coals of Truth upon the consciences of our fellow citizens of Connecticut; - let us repeat the story of our wrongs, in their ears, until it shall affect their hearts, and influence favorably their votes."
The collection of the Connecticut Historical Society

From a speech by Abraham Lincoln, given in New Haven on March 6, 1860. Later that year, Lincoln was elected to his first term as president.

For, whether we will or not, the question of Slavery is the question, the all absorbing topic of the day. It is true that all of us - and by that I mean, not the Republican party alone, but the whole American people, here and elsewhere - all of us wish this question settled - wish it out of the way. It stands in the way, and prevents the adjustment, and the giving of necessary attention to other questions of national house-keeping. The people of the whole nation agree that this question ought to be settled, and yet it is not settled. And the reason is that they are not yet agreed how it shall be settled. All wish it done, but some wish one way and some another, and some a third, or fourth, or fifth; different bodies are pulling in different directions, and none of them having a decided majority, are able to accomplish the common object ...

... If Slavery is right, all words, acts, laws, and Constitutions against it, are themselves wrong, and should be silenced, and swept away. If it is right, we cannot justly object to its nationality - its universality; if it is wrong, they cannot justly insist upon its extension - its enlargement. All they ask, we could readily grant, if we thought Slavery right; all we ask, they could as readily grant, if they thought it wrong. Their thinking it right, and our thinking it wrong, is the precise fact upon which depends the whole controversy. Thinking it right as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition, as being right; but, thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them? Can we cast our votes with their view, and against our own? In view of our moral, social, and political responsibilities, can we do this?

John Brown's statement when he was sentenced to death on Nov. 2, 1859. Brown, a passionate abolitionist, led an unsuccessful slave insurrection at Harpers Ferry, Va., and was convicted of treason.

I believe that to have interfered as I have done in behalf of His despised poor, is no wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I say let it be done.
John Brown was born in Connecticut in May 1800.

From an editorial by William Lloyd Garrison in the first issue of The Liberator, Jan. 7, 1831. The Liberator was an anti-slavery publication.