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George S. Burleigh


Photograph, 1872. Massachusetts Historical Society collection of Portraits of American Abolitionists, Photo 81.105

George S. Burleigh was born too late to participate in the Canterbury Female Academy or The Unionist, but he made up for this with his ardent reformist poetry. He assisted his brother William in editing The Charter Oak in the mid 1840s. He also played a key role in the effort to remember Crandall with a pension of apology from the state of Connecticut in the 1880s. His wife, Ruth Burgess, came from a family based in Little Compton, Rhode Island, which became the residence for George S. Burleigh's family.


George S. Burleigh gravesite, Swan Point Cemetery, Providence Rhode Island

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Petition for Pension for Prudence

In 1885, a movement began in eastern Connecticut to restore Prudence Crandall's good name and recompense her for the loss of income she suffered due to the Connecticut Assembly's "Black Law." George S. Burleigh is credited with writing the first such petition, that was signed by over 100 people in Canterbury and vicinity:

We, the undersigned citizens of this State and of the town of Canterbury, mindful of the dark blot that rests upon our fair fame and name for the cruel outrages inflicted upon a former citizen of our Commonwealth, a noble Christian woman (Miss Prudence Crandall, now Mrs. Philleo) at present in straightened circumstances and far advanced in years, respectfully pray your Honorable Body to make such late reparation for the wrong done her as your united wisdom, your love of justice and an honorable pride in the good name of our noble state, shall dictate.

see Susan Strane, A Whole-Souled Woman: Prudence Crandall and the Education of Black Women.  New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1995. p. 217.


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"Storm on Saugonnet" included in the massive and prestigious anthology, Poems of Places: 

An Anthology in 31 Volumes, edited by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1876–79)

"Elegaic poem on the death of Nathaniel Peabody Rogers," Hartford: Charter Oak Office, 1846. Contains strong opinions about the split in the Abolitionist movement. William Burleigh was in charge of the Charter Oak Press at this time.

Gems of Reform, an Abolitionist anthology that included ""Attic Webs" and other Articles by George S. Burleigh," New Concord Ohio: M.R. Hull, 1848.

"The Day of God" a poem by George S. Burleigh, included in the broadside Hymns and songs for the celebration of West-India emancipation, at Abington, Aug. 1, 1863, Boston: Prentiss & Deland, 1863.

Signal Fires on the Trail of the Pathfinder, a collection of poems about Republican Presidential candidate John C. Fremont, published during the campaign of 1856. New York: Dayton and Burdick, 1856.

"Zoe," an illustrated broadside poetic elegy to a young woman, possibly 1880s.

"The Maple," a late poem dedicated to "the Free Schools of Rhode Island," published in a broadside from Little Compton, RI

The Maniac; and other poems, available for free from HathiTrust here. Philadelphia: J.W. Moore, 1849.

Temperance Poems, available for free from HathiTrust here. Philadelphia: Merrihew and Thompson, 1844 (check because title page says "EDH").

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Nineteenth-century Networks

George S. Burleigh had a deep early friendship with his neighbor, James Monroe (1821-1898). Born in Plainfield in the same year as George, James Monroe became an Abolitionist and interacted with most of the leading figures of that era. He is best remembered for his associations with Oberlin College and as an American Congressman and diplomat from Ohio. He attended Oberlin starting in 1844, and later became a professor there. Monroe's Abolitionism became more conventional over the decades, and he was an early member of the Republican party. 

But the friendship between Monroe and Burleigh, judging from this letter, was a conduit for same-sex ardor and emotion, typical of nineteenth-century correspondence. Whether this included physical desire and attraction cannot be ascertained, but the same lines penned between opposite sex friends would axiomatically lead to such a conclusion:

"I say I love thee, and will be thy Brother.  You say I never loved as you do, I cannot answer you that, but this I know I love and will love, for out of this the Soul has no growth no sunshine and no true joy.  Not with the sense of universal fraternity, would I cherish that flame in the heart.  I ask but an echo to the tone I give, and there my love finds shelter.  I have loved thee dearJames, when the tongue had no words, and even the countenance no look to utter the emotions within."

(1843 - letter from George S. Burleigh to James Monroe 10/1/1843 (Addressed to Monroe in Pittsburgh).

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