Moncure Daniel Conway N-36

Historical Marker Text
Nearby to the northwest is the childhood home of renowned abolitionist, writer, and lecturer Moncure Daniel Conway (1832-1907). In 1838 his family moved into this Federal-style house. Conway graduated from Dickinson College in 1849 and Harvard Divinity School in 1854 and became outspoken in the abolitionist movement. During the Civil War, Conway lived in Cincinnati, Ohio and traveled east in 1862 to lead his family’s slaves to freedom in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Conway moved to London in 1863 and spent a number of years abroad, writing for English and American periodicals. He also wrote biographies of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Thomas Paine. Conway died in Paris on 15 Nov. 1907. [2004]

Extended Research
Conway was a wealthy southern abolitionist and feminist. He was born to Walker Peyton and Margaret Daniel Conway in Falmouth, Virginia, on March 17, 1832. His mother’s family was part of the elite, privileged Conway family, who had been in Virginia since 1640 (d’Entremont 3). His father was a conservative slave-holding judge and farmer who was at odds with him for most of his life (d’Entremont 2). His wife, Moncure’s mother, however, held very different views on slavery. Moncure’s first contact with abolitionist views came from his mother.

moncure-daniel-conway-final.jpgHe attended Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and later Harvard Divinity School. There, he met Ralph Waldo Emerson and became interested in transcendentalism. He was influenced by Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Susan B. Anthony while attending college. He took many of their ideas about abolitionism back with him to Virginia. Conway broke with his family’s views and freed their slaves. He helped them get to Ohio, where they started their own colony (Howe).

He served as a Unitarian minister for a portion of his life, but eventually left after becoming frustrated with his church’s conservative views on slavery.

In 1863 Conway settled in London, after feeling alienated by most of the people he cared about in the United States. He wished for the Civil War to be settled peacefully. This view led him to fall out of favor with many abolitionists in the States. After the death of his father in 1882, Conway returned to the United States. He returned to London once more, then finally settled in Paris, where he died in 1907.

Conway published many writings, including a biography of Thomas Paine, titled The Life and Times of Thomas Paine (1892), that is still considered one of the best biographies written about him (d’Entremont xii). His other works include The Earthward Pilgrimage (1870), The Sacred Anthology (1874), Demonology and Devil Lore (1879), Emerson: at Home and Abroad (1882), and Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1890).

Most southern abolitionists only wanted to free slaves because they believed that slavery did not help the economy. As seen in his numerous writings and books, Conway was one of the few southern abolitionists who believed in the immorality of slavery and sought to change it (Howe).

Photo Credits
“Moncure D. Conway,” Eustace Conway, Moncure Daniel Conway: Addresses and Reprints, 1850-1907, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1909, ii.

For Further Reference
Conway, Eustace. Moncure Daniel Conway: Addresses and Reprints, 1850-1907. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1909.

d’Entremont, John. Southern Emancipator: Moncure Conway, The American Years, 1832-1865. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Hosh, Kofia. “Lecture by author John d’Entremont will explore the contributions of anti-slavery crusader who hailed from Stafford County.” (Fredericksburg, VA) The Freelance Star, 24 November 2007 (accessed 27 March 2008).

Howe, Charles A. “Moncure Conway.” (accessed 27 March 2008).

“Moncure Daniel Conway (1832-1907)” Conway Hall Humanist Center. (accessed 27 March 2008).

Department of Historic Resources map and directions


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