Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Burleigh, William Henry

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BURLEIGH, William Henry, journalist, b. in Woodstock, Conn., 2 Feb., 1812; d. in Brooklyn, N. Y., 18 March, 1871. He was a lineal descendant, on his mother's side, of Gov. Bradford. His father, a graduate of Yale in 1803, had been a popular and successful teacher, but in 1827 became totally blind. William, who had been bred on a farm and educated principally by his father, was now apprenticed to a clothier and afterward to a village printer. He contributed to the columns of the newspaper it was a part of his duty to print, not in written communications, but by setting up his articles without the intervention of writing. From the autumn of 1832 till 1835 he was almost constantly engaged in editorial duties and in charge of papers advocating one or all of the great reforms then agitating the public mind — anti-slavery, temperance, and peace. Though naturally one of the most genial and amiable of men, Mr. Burleigh was stern in his adherence to principle. In 1836 he added to his editorial duties the labor of lecturing in behalf of the American anti-slavery society, and defending their views. For a time he had charge of the “Literary Journal” in Schenectady, then became in 1837 editor of the Pittsburg “Temperance Banner,” afterward called the “Christian Witness,” the organ of the western Pennsylvania anti-slavery society. In 1843 he was invited to Hartford by the executive committee of the Connecticut anti-slavery society, and took charge of its organ, the “Christian Freeman,” which soon became the “Charter Oak,” a vigorously edited and brilliant defender of the anti-slavery and temperance reforms. Mr. Burleigh afterward took charge of the Washington “Banner.” He struck trenchant blows at popular vices and political depravity in his papers, and received his reward more than once in mob violence. But while he deemed this heroic defence of unpopular doctrines a duty, and maintained it with unfaltering heart, he disliked controversy, and, whenever he could command the means for it, he would establish a purely literary paper, which, though generally short-lived, always contained gems of poetry and prose from his prolific pen, and avoided controversial topics. In 1850 he disposed of the “Charter Oak” to the free-soilers, the nucleus of the republican party, and removed to Syracuse, and subsequently to Albany, N. Y., to be the general agent and lecturer of the New York state temperance society and editor of the “Prohibitionist.” When in 1855 Gov. Clark offered him, unsolicited, the place of harbor-master of the port of New York, he accepted it and removed to Brooklyn. For the next fifteen years he was either harbor-master or port-warden, but found time for much literary and some political labor. In the political campaigns he was in demand as a speaker, and his thorough knowledge of all the questions before the people, together with his eloquence, made him popular. He was also in request as a lyceum lecturer, especially on anti-slavery subjects. A collection of his poems was published in 1841, followed by enlarged editions in 1845 and 1850. A part of these were after his death published, with a memoir by his widow (Boston, 1871). — His wife, Celia, reformer, b. in Cazenovia, N. Y., in 1825; d. in Syracuse, 26 July, 1875. She was a teacher, and in 1844 married C. B. Kellum and removed with him to Cincinnati. She was divorced from him, and in 1851 married Charles Chauncy Burr; was again divorced, and in 1865 married Mr. Burleigh. She was the first president of the Woman's club, Brooklyn, and took an active part in advocating woman suffrage and other re- form movements. After Mr. Burleigh's death she prepared herself for the ministry, and was pastor of a Unitarian church in Brooklyn, Conn., until 1873; but failing health compelled her to resign in October, 1871, when she went to the water-cure establishment of Dr. Jackson in Danville, N. Y. Mrs. Burleigh had a wide reputation as an able writer and an eloquent speaker. — His brother, Charles C., abolitionist, b. in Plainfield, Conn., 10 Nov., 1810; d. in Florence, Mass., 14 June, 1878. He studied law, and was admitted to the bar of Windham co., Conn., but soon became interested in the anti-slavery movement, in which he attained high distinction as an orator and an earnest worker. He, with his brother, edited an abolitionist newspaper called “The Unionist,” the publisher being Miss Prudence Crandall (q. v.) who was indicted for keeping a colored school in Connecticut. He rendered efficient service to Mr. Garrison in Boston in protecting him from the violence of the mob in 1835, and was one of the speakers in Pennsylvania hall, in Philadelphia, when that building was burned by a mob in 1838. He was one of the earliest advocates of women's rights and of liberalism in religion, as he was also of temperance principles, in behalf of which he spoke frequently. For fifteen years he was resident speaker of the free Congregational society in Florence, Mass., and for one year preached in Bloomington, Ill. He was the author of “Thoughts on the Death Penalty” (1845), and a tract on the Sabbath, which advanced anti-Sabbatarian views.