Yale Abolitionists

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

The 1856 Kansas Meeting

map of Kansas Territory

In 1856, just a few years before the Civil War, Yale professors Nathaniel Taylor and Benjamin Silliman came out against appeasing the South. The meeting was held in United Church on the Green, presided over by the Rev. Leonard Bacon. Henry Ward Beecher, a prominent abolitionist, was the featured speaker.

Nathaniel W. Taylor stood up at a public meeting and opposed the possible expansion of slavery into Kansas, saying, "We have conceded enough and long enough ... I went for the compromise of 1850. On this spot I made a speech for compromise, and in the same circumstances would make it again . . . We can trust compromises and plighted faith no further. Enough of concession ... Sir, if worst comes to worst, I could lay off the garments of my profession and put on a soldier's coat in the cause of freedom" (156). (Taylor died in 1858.)

At this meeting, Taylor was joined by Benjamin Silliman.

Silliman came to see that the time for compromise and moderation was past: "Never before ... have I addressed a public assembly upon a political question. ... But gentlemen, a real crisis has now come over us, and now for the first time, I tremble for my country ... I have many friends in the South whom I respect. I love my country-my whole country! But I love more that principle, dearer to our fathers than their country, dearer to them than their lives-Liberty" (157). Later, Silliman stepped out again by pressing President Buchanan on his views on slavery, and forced Buchanan to admit his pro-slavery views, in an exchange of letters in the late 1850s.

The atmosphere on Yale's campus was changing as the South's decision to secede neared.




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