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Charles C. Burleigh


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Charles C. Burleigh was most famous in the Abolitionist movement for his work as an editor, starting with The Unionist (1833-34) and then the Pennsylvania Freeman (1845-1854). He was with William Lloyd Garrison during the famous mob attack against the editor on 21 October 1835, and wrote an important eye-witness account for the next issue of The Liberator. He was involved in the early expansion of the Abolitionist movement to include non-resistance and women's rights, as well as temperance and Anti-Masonry. Renowned in his day as a speaker, he was also notorious for his appearance: long-haired, often careless in dress, and passionate in his rhetoric. He was a highly successful agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society in the 1830s, working in both New England and Pennsylvania. His speeches and writings have, to my knowledge, not been systematically collected. This site intends to repair that scholarly gap.

Publications and Positions

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Zachariah Eddy, Burleigh's law teacher. His house and office are still honored locations in Middleborough. From Thomas Weston, History of the Town of Middleboro Massachusetts, Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906, p. 232


The Unionist

Chief Editor of The Unionist newspaper, Brooklyn CT. Wrote numerous editorials for the paper, though few were signed. "The Unionist Unified" is found on this very website!


Assisting with editing of The Liberator

With William Lloyd Garrison when the Liberator's editor was attacked October 21; subsequently, while Garrison was staying in Connecticut with his wife and in-laws, Charles C. Burleigh took over many of the editorial tasks of The Liberator.


Agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society (Pennsylvania, Rhode Island & Connecticut)

Burleigh was one of the American Anti-Slavery Society's most effective agents, part of "The Seventy" trained by Theodore Weld. His work in eastern Pennsylvania from December 1836 to August 1837 helped spawn a leap in the number of local anti-slavery societies in that area.


Law student and budding editor in Massachusetts

Studying law in Middleborough, Massachusetts with the famed Zachariah Eddy (1780-1860), and assisting in the editing of We, the People and Old Colony Press, an anti-Masonic newspaper in Plymouth county.


Thoughts on the Death Penalty

An extended pamphlet of 144 pages, featuring a host of arguments against the death penalty. Burleigh draws on the work of the moral philosopher Jonathan Dymond. Hathi Trust has a permanent link to this text

A rebuttal, that includes some hints that Burleigh reneged on an agreement to have a public discussion on the issue, can be found in Frederick Plummer's A Defense of Capital Punishment, Philadelphia, 1846, available here


Article in The Genius of Temperance

This short publication alerted the Abolitionists to Charles Burleigh Genius of Temperance, Philanthropist and People’s Advocate 3:45 (May 15, 1833) THE CANTERBURY AFFAIR. – Some of the people of Canterbury are still exasperated about the school for colored misses, recently established by Miss Crandall. But very few of the 30 or 40 scholars who were expected to commence with the term, have as yet attended — owing, probably, to the “fanaticism” which seems to have taken hold on the minds of so many of the sober citizens of that portion of the “land of steady habits;” and which vents itself in vexatious attempts at legally coercing the scholars to leave the town, and the teacher to abandon the enterprise. We have been favored by a correspondent, with the following copy of a proceeding of a town-meeting on the subject, which we publish “for the benefit of whom it may concern”— “At a town meeting legally warned and held at Canterbury on the 1st day of April, 1833, Asahel Bacon Esq. Moderator— Voted, that a petition of the town of Canterbury, to the next general assembly, be drawn up in suitable language, deprecating the evil consequences of bringing from other towns, and other states, people of color, for any purpose, and more especially for the purposes of disseminating the principles and doctrines opposed to the benevolent colonization system, praying said assembly to pass and enact such laws, as in their wisdom will prevent the evil; and that Andrew P. Judson, William Lester, Chester Lyon, Rufus Adams, Solomon Payne, Andrew T. Harris, Asahel Bacon, George S. White, Daniel Packer and Isaac Backus, be agents to do the same. Voted, that said agents respectfully request the inhabitants of other towns to proffer similar petitions, for the same laudable object. The foregoing is a true copy of Record: Examined by ANDREW T. JUDSON, Town Clerk. Fine business, truly!—Perhaps those who have been so much in the habit of reading homilies on constitutional law, to the “hair-brained emancipationists,” might be instructed with a peep into that instrument which binds our states together, and there read for themselves, the rights of citizens going from one state to another—“for any purpose,”—or in its favor,—so that they conduct morally and peaceably. But what are the “evil consequences” which are so much to be “deprecated,” in the petitions to the legislature of that state? And how can a “petition” be “drawn up in suitable language,” which “deprecates the evil consequences of bringing” people of color into that town, “for any purpose”—whether to gain moral or literary instruction, cultivate land, vend merchandize, or “make notions”? Garrison is completely “out Garrisoned,” in “fanaticism” and “incendiary” movements,—by a body which ought to have been deliberative! But we do not believe a majority of the citizens of Canterbury favor such “wild schemes,” even though backed by the declaration of a professing Christian, “that before he would see the Green polluted by a negro school, he would oppose it to the shedding of blood!”


Editor, Discussion on American Slavery and Reception of George Thompson in Great Britain.

Assisted in editing an important debate, that was published in pamphlet form, between the British Abolitionist George Thompson and the colonizationist Rev. Robert K. Breckenridge.  It is available online here. Also collated articles about Thompson from the British press into the pamphlet Reception of George Thompson in Great Britain, for which Burleigh wrote an extensive introduction. It is available online here.


Pennsylvania Freeman

Major Abolitionist newspaper based in Philadelphia; Charles C. Burleigh was at times the lead editor, at other times part of an Executive Committee that did the editing as a team, and at other times on leave.  The Pennsylvania Freeman is available online, downloadable by volume, courtesy of the Center for Research Libraries


Slavery and the North

A twelve-page tract written by Charles C. Burleigh as "Anti-slavery tract no. 10 by the American Anti-Slavery Society." 


No Slave-Hunting in the Old Bay State

A major speech given by Charles C. Burleigh at the Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, January 1859. Full text available through the Library of Congress and Hathi Trust here.

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