Gamaliel Bailey

From Ohio History Central
Bailey, Gamaliel.jpg
Reproduction of a portrait of Dr. Gamaliel Bailey (1807-1859), who was an operator for the Underground Railroad in Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. The image was collected by Ohio State University professor Wilbur H. Siebert. Siebert began researching the Underground Railroad in the 1890s as way to interest his students in history.

Gamaliel Bailey was a physician and an editor of anti-slavery newspapers in the years before the American Civil War.

Bailey was born in Mount Holly, New Jersey, on December 3, 1807. As a young man, Bailey trained to be a doctor and graduated from the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1827. He also had an early interest in journalism and was the editor of the Methodist Protestant before moving to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1831.

Once in Cincinnati, Bailey set up a medical practice. He soon began to teach classes in physiology at nearby Lane Theological Seminary as well. In the early 1830s, students and faculty at the seminary were beginning to debate the issue of slavery. Bailey followed these debates closely and decided to become an abolitionist. By 1836, Bailey's interest in the anti-slavery cause led him to join James G. Birney on the editorial staff of the abolitionist newspaper, the Philanthropist. In 1837, Bailey replaced Birney as editor and held that position for the next ten years. He often had to deal with violent threats from people in the city who were opposed to abolitionism. On three separate occasions, mobs broke into the newspaper office and destroyed the printing press.

As editor of the Philanthropist, Bailey viewed politics as a way to end slavery in the United States. He helped to form a new political party in 1840 that focused on abolitionism. It was called the Liberty Party. A number of prominent abolitionists joined the party, and chose Birney as their presidential candidate in the presidential election of 1840. The party did not develop a significant following. In a short time, its members chose to support other political parties.

In 1847, Bailey left Cincinnati and moved to Washington, DC. He became the editor of a new abolitionist journal, the National Era. The National Era is probably best known for first publishing Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1851 and 1852. By the late 1850s, Bailey was in poor health. He died on June 5, 1859, while on a voyage to Europe for his health.


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