Yale Abolitionists

Yale Abolitionists
Samuel Hopkins
James Hillhouse
Simeon Jocelyn
The Amistad Affair
James Pennington
Charles Torrey
Cassius Clay
1856 Kansas Meeting

Samuel Hopkins

Samuel Hopkins portraitAs the spirit of democracy began to spread throughout the colonies, moral support for slavery began to weaken. Although support for slavery remained the predominant view, many New England Quakers and even some of the Congregationalist clergy began to openly condemn slavery. From the 1750s through the 1770s, two Yale graduates served as the ministers of the two competing Congregationalist churches in Newport, Rhode Island. Rev. Ezra Stiles, the future Yale president, ministered to the "Old Light" congregation. Rev. Samuel Hopkins ministered to the less conservative "New Light" congregation. The rivalry between these two Yale graduates was popularized in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel The Minister's Wooing, which describes them as theological opponents. (32)

Hopkins and Stiles had collaborated on a plan to send two black men to Africa to evangelize the continent. They secured two volunteers, Bristol Yamma (a slave) and John Quamine (a free black man), who agreed to undergo missionary training and go to Africa. Hopkins and Stiles penned a joint letter requesting support, in which they criticized, "the great inhumanity and cruelty of enslaving so many thousands of our fellow men every year." (33) Their effort to send these two men to Africa never succeeded, but does interestingly foreshadow a movement that would later become popular with Yale's own leadership.

Three years later, in 1776, Samuel Hopkins was an uncompromising abolitionist. He published the anti-slavery pamphlet, A Dialogue Concerning the Slavery of the Africans, which was addressed directly "To the Honorable Members of the Continental Congress, Representatives of the Thirteen United American Colonies." (34) Later, in 1784, Hopkins led the members of his church to vote to exclude all slaveholders from the congregation. (35)

The same year, in 1776, Ezra Stiles still owned the slave that he had obtained directly through slave trading.




Numbers in parentheses refer to notes. See the notes page.