A life as uneventful as the one whose story we are about
to tell, affords little scope for the genius of the
biographer or the historian, but being carefully
studied, it cannot fail to teach a lesson of devotion
and self-sacrifice, which should be learned and
remembered by every succeeding age.
Daniel Gibbons, son of James and Deborah
(Hoopes) Gibbons, wa sborn on the banks of Mill
creek, in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, on the 21st
day of the 12th month (December), 1775. He was
descended on his father's side from an English ancestor,
whose name appears on the colonial records, as far back
as 1683. John Gibbons evidently came with
or before William Penn to this "goodly heritage
of freedom." His earthly remains lie at Concord
Friends' burying-ground, Delaware county, near where the
family lived for a generation or two. The
grandfather of Daniel Gibbons, who lived near
where West Town boarding-school now is, in Chester
county, bought for seventy pounds, "one thousand acres
of land and allowances," in what is now Lancaster
county, intending, as he ultimately did, to settle his
three sons upon it. This purchase was made about
the year 1715. In process of time, the
eldest son, desiring to marry Deborah Hoopes, the
daughter of Daniel Hoopes, of a neighboring
township in Chester county, the young people obtained
the consent of parents and friends, but it was a time of
grief and mourning among young and old. The young
Friends assured the intended bride, that they would not
marry the best man in the Province and do what she was
about to do; and the elder dames, so far relaxed the
Puritanic rigidity of their rules, as to allow the
invitation of an uncommonly large company of guests to
the wedding, in order that a long and perhaps last
farewell, might be said to the beloved daughter, who,
with her husband, was about to emigrate to the "far
West." Loud and long were the lamentations, and
warm the embraces of these simple minded Christian
rustics, companions of toil and deprivation, as they
parted from two of their number who were to leave their
circle for the West; the West being then thirty-six
miles distant. This was on the sixth day of the
fifth month, 1756. More than a century has passed
away; all the good people, eighty-nine in number, who
signed the wedding certificate as witnesses, have passed
away, and how vast is the change wrought in our midst
since that day!
Joseph Gibbons was so much pleased with the
daring enterprise of his son and daughter-in-law, that
he gave them one hundred acres of land in his Western
possessions more than he reserved for his other and
younger sons, and to it they immediately emigrated, and
building first a cabin and the next year a store-house,
began life for themselves in earnest.
It is interesting, in view of the long and consistent
which Daniel Gibbons pursued, to trace the
influence that wrought upon him while his character was
maturing, and the causes which led him to see the
wickedness of the system which he opposed.
The Society of Friends in that day bore in mind the
advice of their great founder, Fox, whose last
words were: "Friends, mind the light." And
following that guide which leads out of all evil and
into all good, they viewed every custom of society with
eyes undimmed by prejudice, and were influenced in every
action of life by a belief in the common brother hood of
man, and a resolve to obey the command of Jesus, to love
one another. This being the case, slavery and
oppression of all kinds were unpopular, and indeed
almost unknown amongst them.
James Gibbons was a republican, and an
enthusiastic advocate of American liberty. Being a
man of commanding presence, and great energy and
determination, efforts were made during the Revolution
to induce him to enlist as a cavalry soldier. He
was prevented from so doing by the entreaties of his
wife, and his own conscientious scruples as a Friend.
About the time of the Revolution, or immediately after,
he removed to the borough of Wilmington, Delaware,
where, being surrounded by slavery, he became more than
ever alive to its iniquities. He was interested
during his whole life in getting slaves off. And
being elected second burgess of Wilmington during his
residence there, his official position gave him great
opportunities to assist in this noble work. It is
related that during his magistracy a slave-holder
brought a colored man before him, whom he claimed as his
slave. There being no evidence of the alleged
ownership, the colored man was set at liberty. The
pretended owner was inclined to be impudent; but
James Gibbons told him promptly that nothing
but silence and good behaviour on his part would prevent
his commitment for contempt of court.
About the year 1790, James Gibbons came
back to Lancaster county, where he spent twenty years in
the practice of those deeds which will remain "in
everlasting remembrance;" dying, full of years and
honors, in 1810.
Born in the first year of the revolution and growing up
surrounded by such influences, Daniel Gibbons
could not have been other than he was, the friend of the
down-trodden and oppressed of every nationality and
color. In 1789 his father took him to see General
Washington, then passing through Wilmington.
To the end of his life he retained a vivid recollection
of this visit, and would recount its incidents to his
family and friends. During his father's residence
in Wilmington, he spent his summers with kinsmen in
Lancaster county, learning to be a farmer, and his
winters in Wilmington going to school.
At the age of fourteen years he was bound an
apprentice, as was the good custom of the day, to a
Friend in Lancaster county to learn the tanning
business. At this he served about six years, or
until his master ceased to follow the business.
During this apprenticeship he became accustomed to
the following incident: Upon one occasion, his son
received a kick from a horse, which he was about to
mount at the door. When he had recovered from the
shock, and it was found that he was not seriously
injured, the father still continued to look serious, and
did not cease to shed tears. On being asked why he
grieved, his answer was: "I was just thinking how
it would have been with thee, had that stroke proved
fatal." Such thoughts were at once the notes of
his own preparation and a warning to others to be also
A life consistent with his views, was a life of
humility and universal benevolence, and such was his.
It was a life, as it were in Heaven, while yet on earth,
for it soared above and beyond the corrupt and slavish
influences of earthly passions.
His interest in temperance never failed him. On
his death-bed ho would call persons to him, who needed
such advice, and admonish them on the subject of using
strong drinks, and his last expression of interest in
any humanitarian movement, was an avowal of his belief
in the great good to arise from a prohibitory liquor
To a friend, who entered his sick room, a few days
before his death, he said: " Well, E., thee is
preparing to go to the West." The friend replied:
"Yes, and Daniel, I suppose thee is preparing to
go to eternity." There was an affirmative reply,
and E. inquired, "How does thee find it?"
Daniel said: "I don't find much to do, I
find that I have not got a hard master to deal with.
Some few things which I have done, I find not entirely
right." He quitted the earthly service of the
Master, on the 17th day of the eighth month, 1852.
A young physician, son of one of his old friends, after
attending his funeral, wrote to a friend, as follows:
"To quote the words of Webster, ' We turned and paused,
and joined our voices with the voices of the air, and
bade him hail ! and farewell!' Farewell, kind and
brave old man! The voices of the oppressed whom
thou hast redeemed, welcome thee to the Eternal City."
Of all the women who served the Anti-slavery cause in
its darkest days, there is not one whose labors were
more effective, whose character is nobler, and who is
more universally respected and beloved, than Lucretia
Mott. You cannot speak of the slave
without remembering her, who did so much to make Slavery
impossible. You cannot speak of freedom, without
recalling that enfranchised spirit, which, free from all
control, save that of conscience and God, labored for
absolute liberty for the whole human race. We
cannot think of the partial triumph of freedom in this
country, without rejoicing in the great part she took in
the victory. Lucretia Mott is one of
the noblest representatives of ideal womanhood.
Those who know her, need not be told this, but those who
only love her in the spirit, may be sure that they can
have no faith too great in the beauty of her pure and
The book would be incomplete without giving some
account, however brief, of Lucretia Mott's
character and labors in the great work to which her life
has been devoted. To wright it fully would require
a volume. She was born in 1793, in the island of
Nantucket, and is descended from Coffins and
Macys, on the father's side, and from the Folgers,
on the mother's side, and through them is related to
Dr. Benjamin Franklin. Her maiden name was
During the absence of her father on a long voyage, her
mother was engaged in mercantile business, purchasing
goods in Boston, in exchange for oil and candles, the
staples of the island. Mrs. Mott
says in reference to this employment: "The
exercise of women's talent in this line, as well as the
general care which devolved upon them in the absence of
their husbands, tended to develop their intellectual
powers, and strengthened them mentally and physically."
The family removed to Boston in 1804. Her parents
belonged to the religious Society of Friends, and
carefully cultivated in their children, the
peculiarities as well as the principles of that sect.
To this early training, we may ascribe the rigid
adherence of Mrs. Mott, to the beautiful
but sober costume of the Society.
When in London, in 1840, she visited the Zoological
Gardens, and a gentleman of the party, pointing out the
splendid plumage of some tropical birds, remarked :
"You see, Mrs. Mott, our heavenly Father
believes in bright colors. How much it would take
from our pleasure, if all the birds were dressed in
drab." "Yes;" she replied, "but immortal beings do
not depend upon feathers for their attractions.
With the infinite variety of the human face and form, of
thought, feeling and affection, we do not need gorgeous
apparel to distinguish us. Moreover, if it is
fitting that woman should dress in every color of the
rainbow, why not man also? Clergymen, with
their black clothes and white cravats, are quite as
monotonous as the Quakers. "Whatever may be the
abstract merit of this argument, it is certain that the
simplicity of Lucretia Mott's nature, is
beautifully expressed by her habitual costume.
In giving the principal events of Lucretia
Mott's life, we prefer to use her own language
whenever possible. In memoranda furnished by her
to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she
says: "My father had a desire to make his
daughters useful. At fourteen years of age, I was
placed, with a younger sister, at the Friends' Boarding
School, in Dutchess county, State of New York, and
continued there for more than two years, without
returning home. At fifteen, one of the teachers
leaving the school, I was chosen as au assist
ant in her place. Pleased with the promotion, I
strove hard to give satisfaction, and was gratified, on
leaving the school, to have an offer of a situation as
teacher if I was disposed to remain; and informed that
my services should entitle another sister to her
education, without charge. My father was at that
time, in successful business in Boston, but with his
views of the importance of training a woman to
usefulness, he and my mother gave their consent to
another year being devoted to that institution."
Here is another instance of the immeasurable value of
wise parental influence.
In 1809 Lucretia joined her family in
Philadelphia, whither they had removed. "At the
early age of eighteen," she says, " I married James
Mott, of New York—an attachment formed while at
the boarding-school." Mr. Mott entered
into business with her father. Then followed
commercial depressions, the war of 1812, the death of
her father, and the family became involved in
difficulties. Mrs. Mott was again
obliged to resume teaching. "These trials," she
says, " in early life, were not without their good
effect in disciplining the mind, and leading it to set a
just estimate on worldly pleasures."
To this early training, to the example of a noble
father and excellent mother, to the trials which came so
quickly in her life, the rapid development of Mrs.
Mott's intellect is no doubt greatly due.
Thus the foundation was laid, which has enabled her, for
more than fifty years, to be one of the great workers in
the cause of suffering humanity. These are golden
words which we quote from her own modest notes:
"I, however, always loved the good, in childhood desired
to do the right, and had no faith in the generally
received idea of human depravity." Yes, it was
because she believed in human virtue, that she was
enabled to accomplish such a wonderful work. She had the
inspiration of faith, and entered her life battle
against Slavery with a divine hope, and not with a
The next great step in Lucretia Mott's
career, was taken at the age of twenty-five, when,
"summoned by a little family and many cares, I felt
called to a more public life of devotion to duty, and
engaged in the ministry in our Society."
In 1827 when the Society was divided Mrs.
Mott's convictions led her "to adhere to the
sufficiency of the light within us, resting on the truth
as authority, rather than 'taking authority for truth.'"
We may find no better place than this to refer to her
relations to Christianity. There are many people
who do not believe in the progress of religion.
They are right in one respect. God's truth cannot be
progressive because it is absolute, immutable and
eternal. But the human race is struggling up to a
higher comprehension of its own destiny and of the
mysterious purposes of God so far as they are revealed
to our finite intelligence. It is in this sense
that religion is progressive. The Christianity of
this age ought to be more intelligent than
the Christianity of Calvin. "The popular doctrine
of human depravity," says Mrs. Mott, "
never commended itself to my reason or conscience.
I searched the Scriptures daily, finding a construction
of the text wholly different from that which was pressed
upon our acceptance. The highest evidence of a
sound faith being the practical life of the Christian, I
have felt a far greater interest in the moral movements
of our age than in any theological discussion."
Her life is a noble evidence of the sincerity of this
belief. She has translated Christian principles
into daily deeds.
That spirit of benevolence which Mrs. Mott
possesses in a degree far above the average, of
necessity had countless modes of expression. She
was not so much a champion of any particular cause as of
all reforms. It was said of Charles Lamb
that he could not even hear the devil abused without
trying to say something in his favor, and with all
Mrs. Mott's intense hatred of Slavery we do
not think she ever had one unkind feeling toward the
slave holder. Her longest, and probably her
noblest work, was done in the antislavery cause.
"The millions of down-trodden slaves in our land," she
says, "being the greatest sufferers, the most oppressed
class, I have felt bound to plead their cause, in season
and out of season, to endeavor to put my soul in their
soul's stead, and to aid, all in my power, in every
right effort for their immediate emancipation."
When in 1833, Wm. Lloyd Garrison
took the ground of immediate emancipation and urged the
duty of unconditional liberty without expatriation,
Mrs. Mott took an active part in the
movement. She was one of the founders of the
Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1834.
"Being actively associated in the efforts for the
slave's redemption," she says, "I have traveled
thousands of miles in this country, holding meetings in
some of the slave states, have been in the midst of mobs
and violence, and have shared abundantly in the odium
attached to the name of an uncompromising modern
abolitionist, as well as partaken richly of the sweet
return of peace attendant on those who would 'undo the
heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free, and break
every yoke."' In 1840 she attended the World's
Anti-Slavery Convention in London. Because she was
a woman she was not admitted as a delegate. All
the female delegates, however, were treated with
courtesy, though not with justice. Mrs.
Mott spoke frequently in the liberal churches of
England, and her influence outside of the Convention had
great effect on the Anti-Slavery movement in Great
But the value of Mrs. Mott's anti-slavery
work is not limited to what she individually did, great
as that labor was. Her influence over others, and
especially the young, was extraordinary. She made
many converts, who went forth to spread the great ideas
of freedom throughout the land. No one can of
himself accomplish great good. He must labor
through others, he must inspire them, convince the
unbelieving, kindle the fires of faith in doubting
souls, and in the unequal fight of Right with Wrong make
take the place of despair. This Lucretia
Mott has done. Her example was an inspiration.
In the Temperance reform Mrs. Mott took
an early interest, and for many years she has practiced
total abstinence from intoxicating drinks In
the cause of Peace she has been ever active, believing
in the " ultra non-resistance ground, that no Christian
can consistently uphold and actively engage in and
support a government based on the sword." Yet
this, we believe, did not prevent her from taking a
profound interest in the great war for the Union; though
she deplored the means, her soul must have exulted in
the result. Through anguish and tears, blood and
death America wrought out her salvation. Do we not
believe that the United States leads the cause of human
freedom? It follows then that the abolition of the
gigantic system of human slavery in this country is the
grandest event in modern history. Mrs.
Mott has also been earnestly engaged in aid of the
working classes, and has labored effectively for " a
radical change in the system which makes the rich
richer, and the poor poorer." In the Woman's
Rights question she was early interested, and with
Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
she organized, in 1848, a Woman's Rights' Convention at
Seneca Falls, New York. At the proceedings of this
meeting, "the nation was convulsed with laughter."
But who laughs now at this irresistible reform?
The public career of Lucretia Mott is in
perfect harmony with her private life. "My life in
the domestic sphere," she says, " has passed much as
that of other wives and mothers of this country. I
have had six children. Not accustomed to resigning
them to the care of a nurse, I was much confined to them
during their infancy and childhood.
"Notwithstanding her devotion to public matters her
private duties were never neglected. Many of our
readers will no doubt remember Mrs. Mott
at Anti-slavery meetings, her mind intently fixed upon
the proceedings, while her hands were as busily engaged
in useful sewing or knitting. It is not our place
to inquire too closely into this social circle, but we
may say that Mrs. Mott's history is a
living proof that the highest public duties may be
reconciled with perfect fidelity to private
responsibilities. It is so with men, why should it
be different with women?
In her marriage, Mrs. Mott was fortunate.
James Mott was a worthy partner for such a
woman. He was born in June, 1788, in Long Island.
He was an anti-slavery man, almost before such a thing
as anti-slavery was known. In 1812 he refused to
use any article which was produced by slave labor.
The directors of that greatest of all railway
corporations, the Underground Rail Road, will never
forget his services. He died, January 26, 1868,
having nearly completed his 80th year. "Not only
in regard to Slavery," said the "Philadelphia Morning
Post," at the time," but in all things was Mr.
Mott a reformer, and a radical, and while his
principles were absolute, and his opinions
uncompromising, his nature was singularly gener-
ous and humane. Charity was not to him a duty, but
a delight; and the benevolence, which, in most good men,
has some touch of vanity or selfish ness, always seemed
in him pure, unconscious and disinterested. His
life was long and happy, and useful to his fellow-men.
He had been married for fifty-seven years, and none of
the many friends of James and Lucretia
Mott, need be told how much that union meant, nor
what sorrow comes with its end in this world."
Mary Grew pronounced his fitting epitaph when
she said: "He was ever calm, steadfast, and strong in
the fore front of the conflict."
In her seventy-ninth year, the energy of Lucretia
Mott is undiminished, and her soul is as ardent
in the cause to which her life has been devoted, as when
in her youth she placed the will of a true woman against
the impotence of prejudiced millions. With the
abolition of Slavery, and the passage of the Fifteenth
Amendment, her greatest life-work ended. Since
then, she ha« given much of her time to the Female
Suffrage movement, and so late as November, 1871, she
took an active part in the Annual Meeting of the
Pennsylvania Peace Society.
Since the great law was enacted, which made all men,
black or white, equal in political rights—as they were
always equal in the sight of God— Mrs. Mott
has made it her business to visit every colored church
in Philadelphia. This we may regard as the formal
closing of fifty years of work in behalf of a race which
she has seen raised from a position of abject servitude,
to one higher than that of a monarch's throne. But
though she may have ended this Anti-slavery work, which
is but the foundation of the destiny of the colored race
in America, her influence is not ended—that cannot die;
it must live and grow and deepen, and generations hence
the world will be happier and better that Lucretia
Mott lived and labored for the good of all
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