Abolitionists by Henry Robert Burke
This series of articles in "Windows to the Past", features profiles of Washington county's Abolitionists during the sixty plus years of struggle to end slavery in the United States.
The Anti-Slavery Movement began in Europe during the 1770s and rapidly spread to the United States during the American Revolutionary War. After the Revolutionary War, the Mason-Dixon, which had been surveyed in 1667 to establish a boundary between the English colonies of Maryland and Pennsylvania, eventually became the boundary between the Northern (Free) States and the Southern (Slavery) States.
The Anti-Slavery Movement in the United States, also known as the Abolitionist Movement, was already in its infancy during the early 1780s, when the settlement of the Northwest Territory was being contemplated. It is impossible to separate the Anti-Slavery Movement from its activist part, called the Underground Railroad.
The Anti-Slavery Movement influenced the United States Constitution and the Northwest Territory in many subtle and not so subtle ways. It is important not to confuse the Anti-Slavery Movement with the American Anti-Slavery Society, which became formalized in 1831. Of course the Anti-Slavery Society was formed because of the Anti-Slavery Movement, but the Anti-Slavery Movement represents a world-wide sentiment.
The History of Washington county, Ohio, established in 1788, is most often thought of as "local history". In fact the formal history of the Northwest Territory and the entire United States was greatly influenced by people that settled in Washington county, Ohio. The settlement of the Northwest Territory was the first major U.S. governmental accomplishment to operate without the encumbrance of antiquated laws established during the English Colonial Period. In Decatur Township "western" Washington county, Ohio, there is a tiny hamlet named Cutler in honor of the Cutler Family. Cutler was also the one of the earliest branches on the Underground Railroad. This was no accident, but rather the direct result of Manasseh Cutler's anti-slavery sentiments.
Manasseh Cutler was born in Killingly, Conn., May 3, 1742 and died in Hamilton, Mass., July 28, 1823. He worked on his father's farm and a prepared for college under Rev. Aaron Brown, before entering Yale, from which he graduated with honor in 1765. The following year he married Mary Balch of Dedham, Mass.. After studying law, he was admitted to practice in Massachusetts courts in 1767. The next year he was licensed to preach at Hamlet parish, (then a part of Ipswich and afterwards part of Hamilton). During the American Revolutionary War, he served as chaplain in Col. Ebenezer Francis's 11th Massachusetts Regiment.
At the close of the Revolutionary War, Manasseh Cutler returned to preaching at Hamlet parish and soon began to study medicine. He was then able to attend to both the spiritual and physical welfare of his congregation. Not withstanding the many duties of his active life, he continued his habits of study and found time for research astronomy, meteorology, botany and kindred sciences. He was the first to scientifically examine the flora of New England, and over 359 species were examined by him and classified according to the Linnaean system. As a scientists, he was second only to Benjamin Franklin.
When the association of Revolutionary officers was organized for the purpose of locating and settling on bounty lands in the West (Northwest Territory), Dr. Cutler took an active interest in the movement. He was one of five officers appointed to draft a plan for the planned "Ohio Company". I n 1787, he was appointed by the directors of the Ohio Company as its agent to make the purchase of lands upon the Muskingum (river). During this period he met and became friends with Ben Franklin. Their tastes and pursuits were very similar.
While Dr. Cutler's mission to Congress was to purchase lands on the Muskingum for the Ohio Company, the purchase was dependent upon the form of government of the territory in which those lands lay. He therefore became engaged in the provisions of the Northwest Ordinance before Congress, for the nature of the government of the Northwest Territory. He was successful in uniting the discordant political elements and made possible the enacting of provisions (Article 6) in the Northwest Ordinance which forbid slavery in the Northwest Territory. In December, 1787, the first company of men under General Rufus Putnam, set out for the Muskingum, and arrived at Marietta on April 7, 1788. The following year, Dr. Cutler started his twenty-nine day, 750 mile journey in his sulky, to visit the new settlement. He arrived in Marietta, Washington county, (Ohio) on August 19th, 1789.
He was present at the opening of the first court in the Northwest Territory and marveled at the ancient Indian earthworks in the vicinity of Marietta. After a short time he returned to New England, although he contemplated removing with his family to the new settlement, he judged that it would require too much sacrifice, and he abandoned the project.