Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: Resolutions of a Meeting on Slavery in Trenton, New Jersey, 29 October 1819


Resolutions of a Meeting on Slavery in Trenton, New Jersey


Respecting Slavery.

AT a large and respectable Meeting of the Citizens of the State of New-Jersey, held at the State-house in Trenton, the 29th of October, 1819, pursuant to public notice,1 for the purpose of taking into consideration the subject of SLAVERY in States hereafter to be admitted into the Union.


The Honourable Jesse Upson, Vice-President of the State, was appointed Chairman, and Wm. Griffith Esq. Secretary.

The Meeting after due consideration and discussion, unanimously adopted the following preamble & resolutions:

WHEREAS, the abolition of Slavery in this country, and, most especially, the prevention of the importation of Slaves into it, are not only the anxious and ardent desires of the just and humane citizens of the United States, but in truth, important objects of national policy, happiness and security; And whereas, the early, continued and strenuous efforts of the people of the United States to accomplish these great and interesting objects, have highly exalted their character in the estimation of the world, and must be acceptable to the God and Creator of all mankind—This meeting would view, with unspeakable pain and mortification, any measure adopted by the Federal Legislature, tending to extend and perpetuate Slavery among us; and holding out encouragement and temp[ta]tion to the dealers in human flesh to continue their infamous trade, in defiance of the laws of the land, and the [more] sacred will of Heaven—Therefore,

Resolved, That in the opinion of this meeting, the permission of Slaves in the new states admitted into th[e Uni]on, has a direct tendency to perpetuate Slavery in these United States, by extending the sphere of its influe[nce] and action; to increase its danger, by spreading that species of population over the land; and to promote and encourage the importation of Slaves, by providing an extensive and growing market for them, in which the demand and competition for the purchase of them, will be such as so greatly to enhance their prices,2 that evil and avaricious men will be tempted to run all hazards of the violation of our laws, by the prospect of the enormous gains of this horrible traffick.

Resolved, That the members of the late Congress who opposed the admission of Slaves into the proposed state of Missouri, have the sincere and respectful thanks of this meeting, for their manly and unanswerable opposition, to a measure fraught with so much mischief and disgrace to our country.

Resolved, That the Senators and Representatives of New Jersey in the next Congress, be most earnestly and respectfully solicited to use their utmost means and influence to prevent the introduction of Slavery into Missouri, and every other new state that may hereafter be admitted into the Union.

Resolved, That in the opinion of this meeting, the prohibition of Slaves in the new states coming into the Union, is not forbidden by any Article of the Constitution of the United States; but is in full accordance with the principles of the Constitution; and imperiously demanded by the honour and interests of the country.

Resolved, That this meeting has a sincere and respectful confidence in the good and virtuous dispositions of the national legislature on the subject of slavery; and,3 however some of the Members may be compelled by circumstances to submit to it for the present, that they will heartily unite with us in every measure calculated to arrest its progress, and finally, extinguish its existence.

Resolved, That Elias Boudinot, Joseph Hopkinson, William Newbold, Rev. Simon Wilmer, James Parker, and Samuel Emlen, be a Committee to correspond with other persons and bodies engaged in supporting the principles of the foregoing resolutions, and to use all lawful and proper means for effecting the object of the same.

Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting be signed by the Chairman and Secretary, and be published in the Trenton Federalist and True American.   Signed,

JESSE UPSON, Chairman.

William Griffith, Secretary.4

Broadside (DLC: TJ Papers, 216:38603); on verso of address cover of covering letter; torn at seal, with missing text supplied from Trenton Federalist. Printed in Trenton Federalist, 2 Nov. 1819.

Jesse Upson (1756–1838), physician, farmer, and public official, was born in Northbury Parish, Litchfield County, Connecticut. He was a corporal in a Continental army unit from that state, 1775–77, and later in the Revolutionary War served with the New Jersey militia. In 1785 Upson settled in the New Jersey town of Mendham, where he farmed and practiced as a physician. He was elected coroner of Morris County in 1799. A Republican politically, Upson represented that county for three terms in the New Jersey General Assembly, 1804 to 1806, and served as vice president of the New Jersey Council of State, 1816–22. He moved to Greenfield, Indiana, in the final year of his life and died there (The Upson Family in America [1940], 62–3; DNA: RG 15, SRRWPBLW; Portrait and Biographical Record of Winnebago and Boone Counties, Illinois [1892], 1065; A History of Morris County, New Jersey, Embracing Upwards of Two Centuries, 1710–1913 [1914], 1:35–6, 186; National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, DAR Patriot Index [2003], 3:2764; Newark Centinel of Freedom, 22 Oct. 1799; General Assembly of the State of New Jersey, Votes and Proceedings [1804 sess.], 204; [1805–06 sess.], 368; [1806 sess.], 4; [1816–17 sess.], 4, 11; [1817–18 sess.], 3, 7; [1818–19 sess.], 3; [1819–20 sess.], 3; [1820–21 sess.], 3; [1821–22 sess.], 3; [1822–23 sess.], 3; DNA: RG 29, CS, N.J., Mendham, 1830; gravestone inscription in Riverside Cemetery, Howe, Indiana).

William Griffith (ca. 1768–1826), attorney, author, and public official, was a native of New Jersey. He was admitted to the state bar in 1788. Griffith wrote two legal guides that went through multiple editions, A Treatise on the Jurisdiction and Proceedings of Justices of the Peace in Civil Suits (Burlington, N.J., 1796) and The Scriveners Guide (Newark, N.J., 1797). President John Adams appointed him an associate justice on the third federal circuit court in March 1801, but Congress abolished this new group of courts in December of that year. Thereafter Griffith returned to private legal work. He represented Burlington County in the New Jersey General Assembly, 1818–19 and 1823–24, served as mayor of the town of Burlington, 1824–26, and was president of the New-Jersey Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery. Griffith was appointed clerk of the United States Supreme Court in 1826, but he died in Burlington before assuming his duties (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; William Riker Jr., Rules of the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey [1901], 55; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:381, 383 [18, 20 Feb. 1801]; Griffith, Address of the President of the New-Jersey Society, for promoting the Abolition of Slavery, to the general meeting at Trenton, on Wednesday the 26th of September, 1804 [Trenton, 1804]; Marshall, Papers description begins Herbert A. Johnson, Charles T. Cullen, Charles F. Hobson, and others, eds., The Papers of John Marshall, 1974–2006, 12 vols. description ends , 10:179–80, 266; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 12 June 1826; Bridgeton, N.J., Washington Whig, 9 Nov. 1818, 25 Oct. 1823, 17 June 1826).

1Preceding four words moved to end of paragraph in Trenton Federalist.

2Trenton Federalist: “price.”

3Trenton Federalist here adds “that.”

4Trenton Federalist here adds “On motion—Resolved—unanimously, That the thanks of this meeting be presented to the honorable Jesse Upson, Esq. for the highly satisfactory manner in which he has performed the duties of chairman.”

Index Entries

  • antislavery; Resolutions of a Meeting on Slavery in Trenton, New Jersey search
  • Boudinot, Elias; and antislavery search
  • Congress, U.S.; and slavery search
  • Constitution, U.S.; and slavery search
  • Emlen, Samuel; and antislavery search
  • Griffith, William; and antislavery search
  • Griffith, William; identified search
  • Hopkinson, Joseph; and antislavery search
  • Missouri Territory; slavery in search
  • Newbold, William; and antislavery search
  • New Jersey; antislavery in search
  • newspapers; Trenton Federalist search
  • newspapers; TrentonTrue American search
  • Parker, James (of New Jersey); and antislavery search
  • slavery; opposition to search
  • Trenton Federalist (newspaper) search
  • True American (Trenton, N.J., newspaper) search
  • Upson, Jesse; and antislavery search
  • Upson, Jesse; identified search
  • Wilmer, Simon; and antislavery search