I have continued my research into the impact of religion on slavery and freedom in Connecticut in 1774. The connection between the two topics is particularly interesting to me because of the potential impact religion could have had on the institution of slavery. Some religious leaders did indeed speak out about the institution and were active in trying to abolish it, while others did not. From what I understand about Reverend Levi Hart of Preston, Connecticut, he was one who spoke out against slavery, he advocated for better living situations and lives for slaves. While Timothy Dwight IV, the president of Yale, initially was said to not agree with slavery but eventually bought a slave named Naomi. Although he did claim it was his intention to “buy her freedom” we are unsure as to if this ever happened.
A new name I have come across is theologian Jonathan Edwards of Connecticut who was born in 1745. He supposedly recycled Anthony Bezenet’s golden rule. Bezenet was a Quaker delegate from Philadelphia also born in 1745 and his golden rule was “whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them”. Bezenet taught African American school children at a school he set up called the African Free School in Philidelphia. He advocated for full equality for black and white people and acknowledged as a white male that he was not interested in having superiority. He came up with many philosophical arguments countering the institution. Jonathan Edwards also looked to the Revolutionary War natural rights arguments to justify his thoughts on why slavery should be abolished. Edwards even gave sermons preaching his thoughts, one titled “The Injustice and Impolicy of the Slave-Trade and the Slavery Of Africans”, in 1791 to an anti-slavery group in New Haven Connecticut. I am currently searching for more information on this sermon as well as this group and am starting by looking for a copy or a typed version of the sermon.
Through my current research on Jonathan Edwards, I was able to find awesome recourses that has a list of prints created in Connecticut in the 1700’s regarding slavery that I am hoping to continue to look into. For example, I found the log book of slave trades from New London to Africa as well as a story of a specific slave we have yet to search named James Mars. I am excited to further my knowledge on all of these issues, and I think I have come across some excellent finds through the UMASS Amherst library and the library of Congress. The religious impact on slavery was seemingly impressive. It turns out that quite a few religious leaders did not agree with the institution and through the search of one influential, comes the names of many others in our area.