Rowland Gibson Hazard, Sr

Rowland Gibson Hazard, Sr

Birth
South Kingstown, Washington County, Rhode Island, USA
Death 24 Jun 1888 (aged 86)
South Kingstown, Washington County, Rhode Island, USA
Burial South Kingstown, Washington County, Rhode Island, USA
Memorial ID 85082316 · View Source
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Rowland Gibson Hazard was born to a Quaker family in South Kingston, Rhode Island, in 1801. He was educated in Quaker schools in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Following the precedent set by his memorable ancestor, "College Tom" Hazard (who left college in order to eschew its vanity), Rowland Hazard did not receive a college degree, though his prior schooling had indicated his significant academic gifts. Instead, after completing secondary school, he returned to Rhode Island, and in 1819, he and his older brother, Isaac, took over the family business of textile manufacturing. The textile manufacturing business was, of course, supported by cotton plantations dependent on slave labor, and Hazard became aware of the cruelties of the slave system. Though he was not a politician, but rather a businessman, he nevertheless responded to the urgings of his conscience and became a voice for abolition, speaking and writing in opposition to the peculiar institution. As a Quaker, Hazard felt a moral obligation to take stands on controversial issues such as slavery, despite the possible dangers that might befall an outspoken public figure. His attempts during the volatile 1830s to aid an African American Rhode Islander who was being held on a New Orleans chain-gang led his opponents to threaten him with what was euphemistically called "lynch law"; however, in response to this harassment, he expanded his sights and mounted lawsuits intended to destroy the legality of all chain-gang labor. He was also interested in other issues of social justice: such a wealthy man would certainly be assumed to be on the side of big businesses, but Hazard introduced a bill to the Rhode Island Assembly in 1851 that proposed, since railroad companies had an uncomfortable habit of annexing private property, they should therefore be responsible for providing an equal benefit to the public. In the midst of this activism, Hazard continued to build the family's textile empire in Peace Dale, Rhode Island, which was known, perhaps apocryphally, as the only mill town in American that was not affected by labor unrest. (It is certainly true, and impressive, that Hazard's son instituted both property ownerships and a profit sharing plan among employees, which compared to conditions at other mills, made the laborers' situation Elysian.)

In addition to his commitment to social causes, Hazard made forays into philosophy, and published several respected texts on the problem of the human will. His work garnered the appreciation of such respected intellectuals as William Ellery Channing and John Stuart Mill. Though he did not attend college himself, he became a supporter of the good that intellectual pursuit could bring, and endowed the Hazard Professorship of Physics at Brown University. His eldest son attended Brown, as did his grandson.

A Boston artist, Jean Paul Selinger (1850-1909) painted this portrait at Peace Dale in 1880. This portrait is listed as a gift by Mrs. James H. Coggeshall, through the alumni association of 1881. However, it is likely that the painting was actually given by Hazard himself. Correspondence regarding the provenance of the painting suggests that Hazard (always good Quaker) wished to oblige Brown by giving the school a portrait, but also wanted to avoid the appearance of vanity associated with having had the portrait painted and donating it himself. Hazard was reputed to be very proud of his fine hands, which are displayed to great advantage in this portrait; perhaps the indulgence of this vanity caused that conscientious man to be more vigilant about compounding the appearance of conceit.


Bio by: Linda Mac


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  • Created by: SCVet
  • Added: 16 Feb 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 85082316
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Rowland Gibson Hazard, Sr (9 Oct 1801–24 Jun 1888), Find A Grave Memorial no. 85082316, citing Oak Dell Cemetery, South Kingstown, Washington County, Rhode Island, USA ; Maintained by SCVet (contributor 47208046) .