Hamilton College Professor of History Peter Hinks, gave a talk, "To Give Them Liberty and Stop Here is to Entail Upon Them a Curse: Slavery, Emancipation and Yale, 1775-1817," on on March 26 at Yale University.
Hinks argues that Connecticut and Yale were ideologically the most important centers for the articulation of the elite antislavery position and defense of emancipation in America from 1775 through the early 1800s. He will both characterize this context and explain why Yale and Connecticut became the voice for what was then the most important and effective form of antislavery in the young nation.
Hinks says, "In the late eighteenth century they looked very optimistically toward an expanding black freedom that would lead to their inclusion in the civic fabric of the nation. Yet the fundamental objective of these conservative abolitionists always remained the extension and preservation of liberty and the purging of Connecticut of the corruption of slavery. Their principal concern was never black freedom per se and as perceived problems with blacks' use of their new freedom grew along with doubts about their moral capacities, these same abolitionists would increasingly abandon the cause of black freedom and inclusion and indeed question the benefits of inclusion. Yet even in 1815, no less a Yale luminary than Timothy Dwight made clear his unswerving opposition to slavery and his essential understanding that all humans are united in universal fellowship through Christ."
His talk concludes with a brief exploration of Dwight's own complicated thinking over time about race and slavery as a way to encapsulate individually the progressivism, the caution, and the paradoxes that informed the relationship of Yale and Connecticut to slavery and black freedom during this critical era.