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Reverend Dr. William Henry Brisbane (12 October 1806 Beaufort County, South Carolina - 5 April 1878 Arena, Wisconsin) was a Baptist minister of the southern United States who, having convinced himself of the immorality of slavery, freed and settled a group of slaves he had inherited, and became an active abolitionist.

Biography[]

His father, Adam Fowler Brisbane (1783–1830) appears, from Brisbane's own writings, to have suffered from alcoholism. He was adopted by his rich childless uncle William Brisbane (1759–1821) (whom Brisbane later described as “tho' not remarkably pious, yet one of the most excellent men I ever knew, in whom was combined almost every quality worthy of admiration”) and aunt Mary Ash Deveaux (?-1845).[citation needed] He married 28 May 1825 at Lawtonville Glorianna Lawton (15 July 1805-17 February 1878) who bore him eight recorded children of whom three survived to adulthood.

Brisbane inherited a large number of slaves, but became convinced that slavery was wrong, and in 1835 brought 33 of them to the north, manumitting them and aiding them to settle in life. In consequence of this, he was obliged to take rank among the poor men of the country. This was a time when many of his rice planter kinsfolk led lives that were economically dependent on slavery. He therefore had many enemies in his lifetime.

He was obliged to move north, where he made his home in Cincinnati. There he became the associate of prominent abolitionists, and a constant worker in their cause. In the early days of the anti-slavery agitation he was among its foremost advocates. In 1855 he moved to Wisconsin, was chief clerk of the state senate in 1857, and became pastor of the Baptist church in Madison. He was able to return to South Carolina (temporarily) as an officer of the victorious Yankees in 1864 as a tax commissioner. In June 1874, he took an active part in the reunion of the old abolition guards in Chicago.

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