James Gillespie Birney Jr.


James Gillespie Birney Jr.

Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky, USA
Death 25 Nov 1857 (aged 65)
Perth Amboy, Middlesex County, New Jersey, USA
Burial Groveland, Livingston County, New York, USA
Memorial ID 15028831 View Source

James G. Birney, died at Eagleswood, near Perth Amboy, N.J., on Tuesday evening. He was born in 1793, at Danville, Kentucky. His father, a native of Ireland, was a man whose enterprise had accumulated wealth, which, employed with generosity, conferred upon him popularity and social position. His mother was a beautiful and accomplished American lady by the name of Reed.

At the age of nineteen, two years after a distinguished graduation at Nassua Hall, N. Jersey, Mr. Birney became a student in the office of Mr. Dallas, at Philadelphia.

Returning to his native state in 1814, he commenced the practice of law, and at the age of twenty-two was chosen a member of the Legislature. At this time, he contracted a marriage with a lady of great personal attractions and distinguished family. Three years after he had become a planter in Alabama and the owner of thirty-five slaves. Subsequently resuming the practice of his profession at Huntsville, he gath-an an extensive and profitable business. Just before his return to Kentucky, he served with distinction in the Legislature of Alabama.

Agatha McDowell married James Gillespie Birney, February 1, 1816, at the Presbyterian church in Danville, Kentucky. Agatha passed away in 1838. Elizabeth Potts Fitzhugh married James on March 25, 1841, and is not the mother of the earlier children

Mr. Birney’s career attracts peculiar interest from the beginning of his connexions with the anti-slavery movement. Early in life the wrongs inflicted by the whites upon the Indians touched his heart and called out his indignant eloquence both of tongue and pen. Sympathy for one class of human beings naturally led to sympathy for another; and accordingly he was soon greatly interested in the welfare of the negro. The plan of emancipation which at first seemed to him the most feasible was that of the colonizationists, and to advocate their views he abandoned a lucrative and honorable profession.

In 1831, he caused a deed of emancipation for the six slaves he brought with him from Alabama, t be entered at the office of the County Court for the county where he resided, and announced his intention of starting an anti-slavery newspaper in the State of Kentucky.

When no printer could be persuaded to undertake the mechanical part of the enterprise there, he commenced the publication in Ohio, but not without exciting dangerous hostility. The recital of the perils to which he and his friends were exposed, is almost incredible, and shows the change of sentiment which has since taken place to make Ohio the freest in sentiment of the Western States.

Just before the death of his father, Mr. Birney caused such a disposition to be made of the paternal estate, that al the slaves, twenty-one in number, should fall to him, and on the occurrence of that event he set them at liberty, making suitable provision for their comfort.

About this time, his wife died, the mother of eleven children, of whom we believe, five re still living.

In 1840, Mr. Birney visited England, and took a prominent part in the anti-slavery movements which then agitated that country. In 1841 he married the sister-in-law of Hon. Gerrit Smith, a lady of the family of Fitzhugh, who survives to cherish his memory.

In 1844, he was nominated for the presidency by the ‘Liberty Party’, and the vote polled for him being chiefly subtracted from that of Mr. Clay, defeated that statesman.

A few years since he removed from Michigan to New Jersey, in order that he might end his days among the friends of the reform to which he had devoted his prime, and that his youngest son might enjoy the advantage of Mr. Weld’s school at Eaglewood

Family Members



In their memory
Plant Memorial Trees