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Quakers as Abolitionists: The Robinsons ofRokeby and Charles Marriott by Elizabeth H. Moger* The weight of "that branch ofthe Society not called Orthodox" in New York Yearly Meeting in the 1 830s, and particularly in the 1 840s, was not on the side ofthe Abolitionists, but the Robinsons in Ferrisburgh and Charles Marriott in Hudson were Abolitionist country Friends who were not intimidated by this fact. In Ferrisburgh, Vermont, on the east side ofRoute 7, about 1 1 miles south ofthe Shelburne Museum, is what is now the smaller and less well-known Rokeby Museum. From 1791 to 1961, however, Rokebywas the homestead ofthe Robinson family, where theyraisedMerino sheep formanyyears, also operating mills and orchards. There, in the State that never recognized slavery as a legal institution, and that entered the Union as a free State in 1791, they upheld the ancient anti-slavery testimony of Friends, even though they eventually left the Society.1 The Robinsons were originallyNew England Yearly Meeting Friends. In 179 1 , ThomasR. Robinson(176 1-1851) andhiswife, JemimaFishRobinson (1761-1846), came to Vergennes, Vermont, leaving their little daughter Abigail temporarily behind in Rhode Island. They brought their memberships in 1801 to what would become Ferrisburgh Monthly Meeting of Ferrisburgh Quarterly Meeting and New York Yearly Meeting. Thomas's brother William had bought 600 acres of land there, and in 1808 Thomas took title to it.2 Rowland Thomas Robinson (R.T.R.), Thomas and Jemima's only son, was born in Vermont in 1796. He was educated at Nine Partners Boarding School in Dutchess County, New York, where he met both his future wife, Rachel Gilpin, a New York City Friend (1 799-1 862) and Ann King (17861 867), their teacher there, who was supportive and influential in their lives. Ann King came to Rokeby shortly after R.T.R.'s and Rachel's marriage in 1 820, and lived there off and on as a sort of courtesy aunt until her death. R.T.R. and Rachel had three sons, Thomas, George, and Rowland E, and a daughter, Anne King Robinson.3 At the time ofthe Separation, the Robinson household (with the exception of Abigail, who had married Nathan Case Hoag, son of Joseph and Huldah Case Hoag, prominent Orthodox Friends ofFerrisburgh) declared themelves members of"thatbody not called Orthodox," in which they were active until R.T.R. and Rachel left Friends in 1845. * Elizabeth H. Moger, keeper of the Records for New York Yearly meeting from 1978 to 1 997, currently resides at Kendal at Hanover in Hanover, New Hampshire. Quakers as Abolitionists53 Thomas, Jemima, R.T.R, and Rachel were strong Abolitionists in both theory and practice, as was Ann King. R.T.R. was the family member who participated most actively in the wider Abolitionist movement. He was a moving spiritinthe founding ofthe Anti-Slavery Society ofFerrisburgh and Vicinity in 1833. Other members served in succession as its President, but R.T.R, as Secretary and presumed author of its Annual Reports, was its voice and proclaimer of its principles.4 When the Vermont Anti-Slavery Societywas foundedin 1 834 inMiddlebury, R.T.R. was one ofits Directors. Both the Ferrisburgh and the Vermont Societies were aligned with the American Anti-Slavery Society (the "Old Organization" after 1840), and R.T.R. was an active, if somewhat autonomous member ofthat body. He depended entirely on moral suasion for the abolition of slavery, rejecting reliance on political action or the use of force.5 The Robinsons were decided Garrisonians and non-resistants, espousing immediate abolition of slavery and abstinence from the use of all slavegrown or slave-manufactured goods. Rokeby is identified as one of the authenticatedUndergroundRailroad sites inVermont, though it seems clear that the Robinsons operated above ground as a matter of course.6 They consistently employed fugitives on the farm and in the household, treating them as members of the family. On several occasions fugitives were recommended to R.T.R. by Abolitionists further south,7 who knew of the need for workers at Rokeby, the greater safety there, and the acceptance, at least on the part ofthe older members ofthe family without discrimination on racial grounds. The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 52-59
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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