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“…What slave should be held any longer…? Deacon Joseph Mather and The Abolitionist Debate.

In a small metal box in an oriental chest in the Mather attic are eight handwritten pages setting forth an argument to be delivered at a debate concerning the proper approach to Emancipation.

The handwriting appears to be that of Deacon Joseph Mather. The text references emancipation in the West Indies which was proclaimed in 1832. It is likely that the debate would have taken place in the late 1830s. (Deacon Mather died in February 1840.)

The text begins “it will be admitted on both sides…that Slavery is a great evil and that it ought to be abolished but the time when is another thing.”

In 1824 British Quaker Elizabeth Heyrick published Immediate Not Gradual Abolition. Historians suggest that, in the United States, Immediate Not Gradual Abolition became the most influential abolitionist tract of the antebellum period. The dispute between immediatism and gradualism was heated and ongoing and appears to have been the crux and purpose of this debate.

The Deacon’s position is clear. “The question may be asked what is immediate emancipation. I answer it is to confer those rights and privileges that they should enjoy…We look forward one day

or other when they shall be free and why not let it take place now.”

Immediate or gradual was an issue of both debate and consequence. And yet it is one that today is not widely known. With this document we are afforded a deeper insight into the history of both the Mather Homestead and our nation as well.

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