Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Weld, Theodore Dwight (1803-1895) to Milton Sutliff

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04941 Author/Creator: Weld, Theodore Dwight (1803-1895) Place Written: New York, New York Type: Manuscript letter signed Date: 20 November 1838 Pagination: 3 p. : address : docket ; 32.5 x 20.2 cm.

Summary of Content: Weld writes to Sutliff, an Ohio abolitionist and lawyer, from the Office of the American Anti-Slavery Society. The Society will be publishing a series of tracts refuting the main objections to abolition, and Weld seeks information on slavery and the relationship between the North and South. The tracts will report "facts and testimony as to the actual condition of the Slaves... Showing that they are overworked, underfed, have insufficient sleep, live in miserable huts... fastening upon them iron collars, yokes, chains, horns and bells, branding them with hot irons, knocking out their teeth, maiming and killing them." Notes that "a multitude of such facts never yet published, facts that would thrill the land with horror, are now in the possession of Abolitionists..." Asks Sutliff if he can provide eyewitness accounts of cruel treatment of slaves. Also asks Sutliff how many people in his town (Warren, Ohio) are slaveholders, asks their occupation, names, and location of residence. Asks how many southerners reside in Warren, how many young men of Warren have gone south for work, and how many Warren women have married slaveholders. Also requests that Sutliff estimate the number of southerners who travel to Warren for the summer months. Written by another hand, signed by Weld. Very fragile, separated into two sheets.

Background Information: Sutliff was active in his home state of Ohio, and served as a judge and chief justice on the Ohio Supreme Court. Weld was a theologian and abolitionist. He was ...the author of "American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses," published in 1839. In this letter, he solicits anecdotal information regarding the abuses of slavery. Weld's book is said to have been one of the prime resources for Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
See More

Full Transcript: Office of the Am. Anti Slavery Society
143 Nassau St. New York
Novr. 20th. 1838.

The Executive Committee of the A.A.S. Society have resolved to publish a series of tracts ...respecting the main objections to abolition sentiments. The demand for such tracts from all quarters is urgent. The first of the series will consist mainly of facts and testimony as to the actual condition of the Slaves. - Showing that they are overworked, underfed, have insufficient sleep, live in miserable huts, generally without floors, and with a single apartment in which both sexes are herded promiscuously,- that their clothing serves neither the purposes of comfort nor common decency; that barbarous cruelties are inflicted upon them, such as terrible lacerations with the whip and paddle, fastening upon them iron collars, yokes, chains, horns and bells, branding them with hot irons, knocking out their teeth, maiming and killing them.
The pamphlet will be filled mostly with the testimony of eye witnesses, with their names and residences. In this way the credence of millions will be secured who are now slow of heart to believe, and would never credit anonymous testimony.
A multitude of such facts never yet published, facts that would thrill the land with horror, are now in the possession of abolitionists, or can with little trouble be gathered from the immediate circle of their acquaintance. Shall such facts be hushed any longer, when from one end of heaven to the other, myriad voices are crying "O Earth, Earth, cover not their blood." The old falsehood, that the slave is kindly treated, shallow and stupid as it is, had lullabied to sleep four-fifths of the free north and West; but with God's blessing this sleep shall not be unto death. Give facts a voice, and cries of blood shall sing till deaf ears tingle.
Many such facts, endorsed by unimpeachable eye-witnesses, are now in our possession, and the committee earnestly desire all such as can be certified to as actually witnessed by individuals whose statements can be relied on. [2] Now dear brother suffer us to look to you for some help in this matter. If you have ever witnessed cruelties inflicted on the slaves, or severe privations suffered by them, or if any abolitionists or others in your place to whose trustworthiness you can testify, have witnessed such enormities, and will furnish them, will you write out the facts, and immediately forward them by mail. In case you state facts on the authority of others, give the name and residence of your informant, and other circumstances concerning him which may, with the public add to the credibility of his or her testimony, such as his or her profession or calling, title if any, membership in any religious society, the holding of any office of trust, & c. The importance of great care and accuracy in all such details as well as in the subjects matter of the testimony both for the sake of the truth itself, and for securing the full credence of a gainsaying generation, cannot be to highly appreciated.
Will you also have the goodness to furnish answers to the following questions which are designed to show what the free states have to do with Slavery.
1. How many person, natives of your town, now reside in Slave States? How many of them are slaveholders? If any of them are Ministers of the Gospel, or Editors of papers, or instructors in literary or other institutions, or lawyers, or physicians, or in any [struck: other] public office, please give their names and residence. State also the influence of their visits on their friends and other, and how many have married Slaveholders?
2. How many persons now residents of your town, are from the slave states? How many have settled with you as permanent residents? Did such hold Slaves? If so, did they sell them, or do they still hold them? Are any other of your Citizens slave holders? Have you any mercantile houses, that have branches in the Slave States, or any manufactories, or other business establishments which have agents there, either travelling or local? How many of your citizens hold mortgages (or their legal equivalent) on Southern property; and to what amount? How many of your young men have gone south this fall as teachers, agents, mechanics, clerks, pedlers, & c. How many of the women of your town have married Slaveholders.
3. How many residents of Slave States have visited your [3] town in the summer seasons for a few years passd? (give the average) Are they courted or shunned by your people? What effect do they produce on public sentiment?
Your communication respecting the first topic the condition & c. of slaves, you are earnestly desired to forward by mail as soon as possible. As the publication of the pamphlet is delayed solely for the purpose of embodying the returns brought in by this Circular, which will be sent to well known abolitionists in various parts of the Country. Your answers to the questions on the other topic, shewing the relations of the free states to Slavery- will arrive in season, if mailed by you as soon as the [struck: first] [inserted: 15th] of January, though if you can send them on with your first communication, it would be preferred. Please however not to delay your statements as to the condition of the slaves for the sake of sending on with them your answers to the other questions. Doubtless all staunch abolitionists around you will rejoice to share with you the labor of procuring the testimony and information desired, and in securing a scrupulous accuracy in the statements of cruelties and other details.
Please direct your communications to me at 143 Nassau Street, New York.
Very affectionately your brother for the wailing slave.
Theodore D. Weld

Milton Sutliff Esqr
Trumbull Co.

T. D. Weld
N. York. Nov 29th
Theodore D. Weld
N.Y. City Nov. 20th
See More

People: Weld, Theodore Dwight, 1803-1895
Sutliff, Milton, 1806-1878

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: American Anti-Slavery Society MemberAbolitionReform MovementSlaveryAfrican American HistoryInjury or WoundDeathMarriageImmigration and Migration

Sub Era: Slavery & Anti-slavery

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources