Arthur Tappan

Arthur Tappan was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, on 22nd May, 1786. Tappan moved to Boston at the age of 15 and by 1807 had established his own dry goods business in Portland, Maine. He expanded his business investments and a silk-importing firm based in New York was particularly successful. With his brother, Lewis Tappan, he established America's first commercial credit-rating service.

Tappan held strict moral views and contributed a large amount of his wealth to campaign against alcohol and tobacco. He also helped fund several anti-slavery journals and in 1831 helped establish America's first Anti-Slavery Society in New York in 1831. When two years later it became a national organization, Tappan was elected its first president.

Some members of the Anti-Slavery Society considered the organization to be too radical. They objected to the attacks on the US Constitution and the prominent role played by women in the society. In 1839, Arthur and Lewis Tappan left and formed a rival organization, the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. He also backed the new anti-slavery Liberty Party.

After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, Tappan became more radical. He declared he was now willing to disobey the law and helped fund the Underground Railroad.

Arthur Tappan died on 23rd July, 1865 in New Haven, Connecticut.

Tappan brothers

Born in Northampton, Mass., Arthur and Lewis Tappan were among the 11 children of a goldsmith and merchant. Their mother kept a strict Calvinistic household. Both Arthur and Lewis early showed aptitude for business and rose rapidly as wholesale and retail merchants in Boston and Canada. Arthur, a stern man, moved to New York, where he attained wealth in selling silks and a reputation for social and religious concerns. His most notable innovation was the one-price system on sales. Lewis, a warmer and more expressive personality, was won over by the Reverend William Ellery Channing and troubled his family by becoming a Unitarian. His return to Calvinism in 1828 created a sensation in Boston and beyond.

In 1827 Lewis joined Arthur in New York. They became influential in numerous fields. They began the Journal of Commerce to create a business paper which also had a religious perspective. Their connection with the Magdalen Society, intended to end prostitution in the city, exposed them to antagonism and ridicule, as did their campaigns against Sunday mails. They contributed to church funds and building.

Arthur took himself and his brother into the antislavery crusade. Impelled by evangelicism, both embraced William Lloyd Garrison's radical doctrine of "immediate" abolition. In 1833 they helped organize the New-York Antislavery Society and the American Antislavery Society. Public dissatisfaction with their activities the next year resulted in a riot during which Lewis Tappan's home was sacked. Arthur was active in founding Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, as a religious outpost. He also helped build Oberlin College in Ohio.

The economic crisis of 1837 ruined Arthur, and despite Lewis's loyalty and cooperation, he never regained his status as businessman or reformer. Lewis, on the other hand, continued consequential in both fields. In 1841 he founded the successful Mercantile Agency, the first commercial credit institution it later become Dun and Bradstreet. Meanwhile he was at the center of abolitionist developments. In 1843 he visited England in a remarkable effort to persuade the British government to end slavery in Texas through a loan to the young republic.

In 1846 Lewis helped found the American Missionary Association, in opposition to groups more conservative on the slavery issue. The next year he helped found the National Era, which in 1852 published Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. His pamphlet Is It Right To Be Rich? (1869) answered the question with a firm negative.

Collection inventory

Arthur Tappan (1786-1865) was an American abolitionist. He was the brother of Ohio Senator Benjamin Tappan and abolitionist Lewis Tappan.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Arthur Tappan Letter consists of a single outgoing letter addressed to Henry and Thomas Davis of Syracuse, New York. The letter concerns financial transactions with someone named Hasbrook.

Arrangement of the Collection


Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Collection inventory

Arthur Tappan (1786-1865) was an American abolitionist. He was the brother of Ohio Senator Benjamin Tappan and abolitionist Lewis Tappan.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Arthur Tappan Letter consists of a single outgoing letter addressed to Henry and Thomas Davis of Syracuse, New York. The letter concerns financial transactions with someone named Hasbrook.

Arrangement of the Collection


The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

See also the Lewis Tappan Letter for correspondence of his brother.

Subject Headings

Administrative Information

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Arthur Tappan Letter,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Arthur Tappan Rankin (1836 - 1911)

The eighth son of Rev. John Rankin, an early American abolitionist. Arthur was named for Arthur Tappan (1786-1865), another early abolitionist. Arthur was a pall bearer for his father's funeral. There were six white and six black pallbearers to carry Rev. John Rankin's casket. Arthur and his wife were graduates of Iberia College in Morrow County, Ohio (later named Ohio Central College). The school was founded in 1854 by the Free Presbyterian Church, and from the beginning was open to both genders and all races. The early students helped construct the buildings on the campus. The college in now abandoned and in decay, but is on the National Register of Historic Places. [1]

In 1850, the Rankin family lived in Union Township, Brown, Ohio. The household included John Rankin, 57, born in Tennessee, a clergyman with $4000 in real estate his wife, Jane, 53, b. TN their five children, all b. Ohio: Andrew, 22, a student William, 19, a carpenter Lucinda, 16 Arthur, 14, in school and Thomas, 12, in school. Also living with them were Jane’s mother, Julia Lowry, 74, b. TN and Kitty McCloskey, 8, b. Kentucky. [2]

Arthur married Mary Alice Briggs in 1859 in Ohio. Rev. George Gordon officiated. [3]

1870 and 1880 Census: Rankin was a minister, living with his wife and children in Fugit, Decatur, Indiana. In 1870, there were 6 children, and in 1880, there were 8. [4] [5]

  • In 1870, the Rankin family lived in Fugit, Indiana. The household included A. Rankin, 34, a minister, born in Ohio, with $1800 in real estate and $1500 in personal estate his wife Mary A., 29, b. Ohio and their six children: Leila, 10, b. Ohio Eva L., 8, b. Illinois Henry B., 6, b. Indiana Helen M., 4, b. IN Francis L., 2, b. IN and Jennie, 3 months, b. IN.
  • In 1880, they lived in Fugit, Indiana. The household included A.T. Rankin, 44, born in Ohio, a minister, whose parents were b. In Tennessee his wife Alice, 39, b. Ohio, whose parents were b. NY and their eight children, Ada L., 20, b. Illinois Eva L., 18 Henry B., 16 Ellen (Helen) M., 14 Francis L., 12 Jennie, 10 Arthur, 7 and Rosa, 2. All the children were born in Indiana except for Ada. All the children were in school except the oldest one and the youngest one.

The Rankin family portrait to the right > is courtesy of C. L. Peyton, who photographed the original photo in 2013 at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, Ohio. The picture shows Rev. John Rankin, his wife and some of their thirteen children. Back row, from left: Thomas, William, Andrew, John (Jr.), Samuel, Richard, and Arthur. Front row: Julia, Mary, Rev. John, Jean, and Isabella. [8]

In 1900, the Rankin family lived in their rented house in Brigham City, Box Elder, Utah. The family included Arthur T. Rankin, 64, born in Ohio in March 1836 (parents b. TN), a clergyman his wife of 41 years, Mary A., 60, born in Ohio in Sept.1840 (parents b. NY), who had had nine children, eight of whom were living their daughters, both born in Indiana, Ev, 38, born March 1862 and Ann, 18, born in April 1882, a student. [9]

Arthur’s wife Alice died 1 October 1904 in their home in Box Elder County, Utah.

In July 1905, Arthur traveled to Victoria, British Columbia with his daughters Anna L., 23 Rose, 27 and Jean, 30. Arthur, 69, born in the United States, was a widowed minister, and the three daughters were single teachers, all born in the US. They traveled aboard the S. S. Whatcom to Victoria, and were to return to the US. [10]

1910 Census: Rankin was a minister, living with two unmarried daughters, Jean (40) and Rose (32) in a rented home on E. 10th Street, Indianapolis, Indiana. [11]

Also listed in 1910 as living with his daughter, Ada and her husband in Fugit Township p, Indiana:

In 1910, the Stewart family lived in Fugit Township, Decatur, Indiana. The household included W.K. Stewart, 58, a retail/general store merchant his wife of 30 years, Ada L., 51, who had had two children, one of whom was living and Ada’s father, Rev. A.F. Rankin, 74, born in Ohio, a widower, Presbyterian Church preacher. [12]

Arthur was the minister of Kngston Church, Kingston, Indiana for over thirty years. He is buried with family in Kingston Cemetery, Kingston, Indiana. [13]

Arthur Tappan - History

The Sphere of the Believer's Life

Arthur Tappan Pierson,

The Epistles to the Thessalonians

The keynote of both of these letters is promptly struck in the third verse of the first chapter, in the phrase, "patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."

["Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our LORD Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father" (1Thessalonians 1:3) .]

Here we are turned toward the future, the second coming of Him in whom we find the sphere of our final triumph over all foes. Hope looks forward to the future and fixes its gaze on this consummation, and hence becomes the profound secret of patience in present trials. The same blessed thought reappears in verses 9-10. "To serve the living. God and to wait for his Son from heaven."

["9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the Living and True God 10 and to wait for His Son from Heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (1Thessalonians 1:9-10) .]

These two epistles therefore carry us to the climax of the glorious truth which has lifted us to higher and higher elevations, as we have gone from summit to summit in studying this progress of doctrine here the Holy Spirit gives us a glimpse of our final, ultimate, and complete victory in Christ over all enemies and all trials.

It will be remembered that, in the epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians, we found one blessed privilege to lie in the future: in the former, our gathering together unto Him and in the latter, our manifestation in Him. Here we are emphatically reminded of His reappearing, at which time this gathering together of all saints is to take place about the very Head of the mystical body and their manifestation in Him, because He himself is to be manifested in glory.

The Holy Spirit guides the pen of Paul to write of these two future and crowning relations of blessing that yet await all God's saints. Compare II Thessalonians 2:1,8. "By our gathering together unto him," and, "the brightness of his coming"―the epiphany of His parousia.

["1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, 8 and then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the LORD shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming" (2Thessalonians 2:1-8).]

Here we have both thoughts and in fact both are found in the one verse which opens the second chapter: "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him." [2Thessalonians 2:1].

To get even a glimpse of this truth, we must first know what is included in this second advent of the Son of God, as it is set forth in these two letters to Thessalonica. We present the following as a partial analysis of their contents, but sufficient to hint at the wealth of suggestion herein to be discovered:

1. The reward of service (I Thessalonians 2:19). "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?"

2. The final perfection in holiness (I Thessalonians 3:13). "Unblameable in holiness. at the coming."

["To the end He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ with all His saints" (1Thessalonians 3:13) .]

3. The reunion of departed and surviving saints (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).

["13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. 15 For this we say unto you by the Word of the LORD, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the LORD shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the LORD Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the LORD in the air: and so shall we ever be with the LORD. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these Words" (1Thessalonians 4:13-18) .]

4. The triumph over death in the resurrection of the dead and the translation and transformation of the living (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).

5. The final consummation of salvation. Living together with Him, forevermore (I Thessalonians 4:17).

6. The avenging of saints upon all adversaries (I Thessalonians 5:9 II Thessalonians 1:7-10).

["For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our LORD Jesus Christ" (1Thessalonians 5:9).

"7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the LORD Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our LORD Jesus Christ: 9 who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the LORD, and from the glory of His power 10 when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day" (2Thessalonians 1:7-10) .]

7. The ultimate gathering together unto Him (II Thessalonians 2:1).

["Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him" (2Thessalonians 2:1) .]

8. The destruction of the man of sin (II Thessalonians 2:8).

["And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the LORD shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming" (2Thessalonians 2:8) .]

9. The obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (II Thessalonians 2:14).

["Whereunto He called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our LORD Jesus Christ" (2Thessalonians 2:14) .]

10. The final, eternal glorification of saints in Him ( II Thessalonians 2:16).

["Now our LORD Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace" (2Thessalonians 2:16) .]

When Christ comes again to complete our salvation, there will be at least a fourfold triumph:

1.Over sin, in unblameable holiness

2.Over suffering, endured at the hands of the wicked

3.Over death, in resurrection and translation

4.Over Antichrist and the devil

And in this triumph the saints are to be in every respect co-partakers with Christ. His triumph is theirs, and His joy is theirs.

Only in this grand consummation will it be possible to understand what it is to be in Christ Jesus. In our present experience several necessary hindrances exist to our full realization of the blessedness of our estate in Him.

First, all this sphere pertains to the invisible. We as yet belong to a material and temporal order. Things visible and sensible appeal to us, because our physical senses are on the alert to receive impression. We walk by sight naturally and inevitably and the unseen and eternal can be apprehended and appreciated only in part, dimly, even by those whose inner spiritual senses are exercised to discern good and evil. To see the visible we need only to open our natural eyes. It is easier to keep them open than shut, and to walk by sight requires no effort. But to see the invisible and feel the power of the eternal, is not natural nor easy it requires sedulous and constant effort―the daily discipline of our higher senses. These things evade and escape us if we are careless, nay, unless we are most prayerful and careful and at times the most devout and circumspect believer loses the vision of their entrancing loveliness, preciousness, and glory, and sets his eye on the lower good that seems so much easier both to see and grasp. But when Christ comes again and is manifested, He will be revealed, and all our being will be filled with the enamoring sense of His reality, and we shall never lose sight of Him more. The now unseen and eternal will then be as vividly real as any objects of sight or sense.

And as to the devil, obviously he is not dead. The saintliest priest of God can not stand at His altar without the unseen satanic foe at his right hand to resist him. We go up to the heavenlies in the rapt communion with God, but in the heavenlies are the hostile principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:10).

["Finally, my brethren, be strong in the LORD, and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:10) .]

There is no escape from the approach of this devouring lion. We may indeed escape his jaws and his paws, but we hear his roar and we tremble as we remember how many in their securest moments have become his victims.

The day will come, when even death, the last enemy, will be destroyed, and we shall be free to enjoy Him who is our life, without even the presence of a foe. What a life that will be in Him―when the law is forever silenced as our accuser, and Sinai's summit forever disappears! What a deliverance, when the world to come displaces the world that now is, and there are no allurements that draw from God! When the flesh and carnal mind are eternally gone, that the Spirit may rule every motion within us! And, when the bottomless pit closes its doors over the adversary of God and man, never again to release him and, before the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the lion that roars in our path and seeks to devour our souls, falls in final destruction―what a shout of deliverance will ring through all the universe of redeemed souls and unfallen angels!

Over these two epistles might be written one sublime word, victory. A salvation complete and glorious draws nearer than when we believed, and this is held up before us continually in these two letters. The phrases which abound here are found in their variety and combination nowhere else, for they grow naturally out of such a soil: "patience of hope,"

["Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our LORD Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father" (1Thessalonians 1:3) .]

["And ye became followers of us, and of the LORD, having received the Word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost" (1Thessalonians 1:6) .]

"to wait for his Son from heaven,"

["And to wait for His Son from Heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (1Thessalonians 1:10) .]

"God who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory,"

["That ye would walk worthy of God, Who hath called you unto His Kingdom and glory" (1Thessalonians 2:12) .]

"at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints,"

["To the end He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ with all His saints" (1Thessalonians 3:13) .]

"the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven," etc.

["And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the LORD Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels" (2Thessalonians 1:7) .]

And, as these phrases abound, so these epistles abound in arguments for holy living drawn from the glorious and blessed hope which illumines the future. There is scarce a grace or virtue in the whole blessed catalogue of saintly excellencies and adornments, for which this future victory and glory presents no new incentive obedience, service, patience, fidelity, self-denial, love, meditation on the Word, joy, comfort, steadfastness, zeal, sanctity, honesty, hope, consolation, vigilance, humility, gentleness, supplication, separation to God, peace―all that is most lovely and most helpful is made to hang upon the cherishing of the blessed assurance of our final triumph and blessedness, in Him who is the coming One. Only so far as this blessed hope is obscurred or practically becomes inoperative in our lives, will our character and conduct as disciples degenerate.

Let us remember that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is the consummation of all things which pertain to our redemption. It introduces the sublime closing scenes in the whole history of salvation. There is much that cannot be revealed to the Church and to the angelic host in the age that now is, and God waits for the ages to come to make known His manifold wisdom and grace. He finds in our present experience no data from which to convey a fit knowledge―no dialect sufficiently meaningful to express the inexpressible things which must wait for the revelation of experience.

The more devoutly we study the Word, the more we shall discover that, like our Lord's first advent, the present revelation of grace is a necessary hiding of God's true power new conditions are necessary for a full disclosure. When He comes again He will not come in disguise, but in proper attire and with proper attendance. He will be revealed as never before. And all spiritual truth and fact, pertaining to the believer, waits for His true epiphany, when His glory shall emerge out of clouds into fulness of revelation. We can only, like the Thessalonians, "serve and wait." To the most mature saint, that coming day is to be as absolute a surprise as the third heaven mysteries were to Paul. God has something beyond all we have conceived, waiting for us, at Christ's appearing. The words used to intimate it are the best human language supplies, but the mold is too small for the conception, and so cramps it and so distorts it. We must see in order to know, and for that vision we wait, with longing and expectant eyes, until the dazzling splendor of the coming King shall declare what no words can reveal or unveil.


Born in Northampton, Massachusetts to a devoutly Calvinist family, Tappan moved to Boston at the age of 15. In 1807 he established a dry goods business in Portland, Maine.

In 1826, Arthur and his brother Lewis moved to New York City, a center of business and retail trade, and established a silk importing business. In 1827, the brothers founded the New York Journal of Commerce with Samuel F.B. Morse. Arthur and Lewis Tappan were successful businessmen, but commerce was never their foremost interest. They viewed making money as less important than saving souls. They made The Journal of Commerce a publication free of “immoral advertisements.” Both men suffered in the Anti-abolitionist riots (1834), in which anti-abolitionist mobs attacked their property. [2] Arthur Tappan was one of two signatories who issued a disclaimer on behalf of the American Anti-Slavery Society in the aftermath of the riots, emphasising its dedication to abolishing slavery within the existing laws of the United States. [3]

The Panic of 1837 forced the Tappans to close their silk-importing business, and almost scuttled their paper, but the brothers persevered. In the 1840s, they founded another lucrative business enterprise when they opened the first commercial credit-rating service, the Mercantile Agency, a predecessor of Dun and Bradstreet.

The Tappan brothers made their mark in commerce and in abolitionism. Throughout their careers, the Tappans devoted time and money to philanthropic causes as diverse as temperance, the abolition of slavery, and the establishment of theological seminaries and educational institutions, such as Oberlin and Kenyon colleges in Ohio. Their beliefs about observing Sabbath extended to campaigns against providing stagecoach service and mail deliveries on Sundays.

In the early 1830s, while a principal owner of The Journal of Commerce, Arthur Tappan allied with William Lloyd Garrison and co-founded the American Anti-Slavery Society. Arthur served as its first president until 1840, when he resigned based on his opposition to the society's new support of women's suffrage and feminism. Their early support for Oberlin College, a center of abolitionist activity, included $10,000 to build Tappan Hall. Oberlin's green Tappan Square now occupies the site. [4]

Continuing their support for abolition, Arthur and his brother founded the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1840, and the American Missionary Association in 1846. After the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was passed, Tappan refused to comply with the new law and donated money to the Underground Railroad. The brothers' positions on the slavery issue were not universally popular. In early July 1834, Lewis Tappan’s New York home was sacked by a mob, who threw his furniture into the street and burned it. [5]

The Tappans and The Journal of Commerce attracted bitter criticism for their campaign to free the Africans who had taken over the slave ship Amistad in 1839. James Gordon Bennett, Sr.’s rival New York Morning Herald denounced “the humbug doctrines of the abolitionists and the miserable fanatics who propagate them,” particularly Lewis Tappan and The Journal of Commerce.

Arthur Tappan died in 1865, Lewis in 1873. Both men lived long enough to see the Emancipation Proclamation grant freedom to millions of African Americans in the South and presage the end of slavery.

Running afoul of slave-owning political interests almost destroyed brothers Lewis and Arthur Tappan, the wealthy owners of a prominent New York mercantile import business. On July 9, 1834, a pro-slavery mob gathered at New York City’s Chatham Street Chapel with the intention of breaking up an abolitionist sermon.

Among their many grievances, the protesters were incensed at an incident some weeks earlier in which Arthur invited Rev. Samuel Cornish, an African American abolitionist and cofounder of the American Anti-Slavery Society, into his family pew for Sunday service. The gesture served as a powerful symbolic call for the racial integration of religious worship at the chapel. It also made the Tappan brothers — already well known as a philanthropic force behind the abolitionist movement — the target of sensationalist conspiracy theorizing that spread to newspapers across the country and accused the devoutly Christian and pacifist brothers of fomenting a slave revolt.

Congregants caught wind of threats to forcibly disrupt their gathering and fled for their own safety. Still seeking a fight, the mob descended upon Lewis Tappan’s nearby home, tossing its furniture into a fire on the street and successfully driving away an attempt by the New York police to quell the riot. For the next two days, breakaway mobs searched the city for the Tappan brothers, ransacking the homes both of white abolitionists and leaders of New York’s free black community in the process. The same mobs attacked African-Americans on the streets at random and held crude racist political demonstrations in front of churches and businesses they deemed friendly to the abolitionist cause.

The Tappan brothers managed to escape relatively unscathed as the mayor stationed an armed militia to guard their storefront and drive away rioters. National news of the Chatham Incident, or “Tappan Riots” as they came to be called, carried other repercussions. It made the firm of Arthur Tappan & Co. into the target of a slave owner–instigated boycott that preyed upon public racism to drive away its customer base.

The mob targeting of the Tappans proved to be a watershed moment in the crusade to end slavery. William Lloyd Garrison’s coverage of the riots demonstrated that slavery’s defenders were willing to incite political violence in order to silence their critics. The episode also converted New York journalist William Leggett to the cause of abolition, which he then explicitly linked to a philosophy of laissez-faire capitalism and free trade.

It also took a heavy toll on the Tappans’ company. If the proslavery mob could not physically drive them from their New York business, it would destroy them nationally through a vilification campaign and economic targeting. Newspapers across the South demonized the brothers as the face of not only abolitionism but racial intermarriage, black political rights, and violent slave revolts. Groups of slave owners in New Orleans and Charleston even pledged a bounty on Arthur Tappan’s head. A poster advertising a “$20,000 Reward for Tappan,” for example, appears prominently in an 1835 depiction of slave owners ransacking a post office to intercept copies of William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator.

By 1837, the combined loss of business from the boycott and the descent of the American economy into a deep financial depression left the brothers owing more than $1 million to creditors. The decline represented a nearly complete reversal in fortunes for a firm previously known for its conservative bookkeeping and heavy reliance on cash transactions to limit its liabilities from customers who reneged on their payment obligations. Arthur Tappan & Co. finally closed shop.

Lewis Tappan, who often spoke of his business as a moral charge and who directed its proceeds in healthier times to a variety of abolitionist newspapers, was not yet ready to concede the fight to an orchestrated campaign of financial ruination. At his darkest moment, he came up with a brilliant plan that not only reversed his fortunes but also revolutionized the American financial industry.

Drawing on the experience of the boycott, Lewis recognized a systemic fault in the existing practices for business transactions carried out on credit. To fight back against a slave owner–incited boycott that undermined their cash purchases, the Tappans would reconstitute their business model around their existing network of connections in the abolitionist movement by offering credit transactions to trusted friends and associates. Establishing that trust, however, remained an obstacle, particularly if they ever hoped to expand this service beyond their own personal associations.

The complexities of the global import market and a growing customer base, spread across the nation’s rapidly expanding geography, made the issuance of credit into an economic challenge. What was once a simple relationship between a shopkeeper and customers who were known to Lewis and who usually resided in his neighborhood now became a persistent information problem. With expanded markets, businesses could no longer afford to rely upon personal knowledge and reputation when vetting potential customers. A firm had to either insist upon payment up front or assume the risk that a customer would abscond with goods purchased on credit. The only available solutions were to either pay for individual background checks on potential clients before extending them credit — an expensive and unwieldy undertaking for all but the largest of firms — or absorb the loss if a customer reneged on repayment.

Lewis Tappan devised an innovative solution to this problem by devising a service to independently track and validate the creditworthiness of potential clients. In 1841 he founded the New York Mercantile Agency, the first modern credit-reporting firm in the United States. The new company offered a subscription-based service that collected and maintained a list of the creditworthiness ratings of private businesses across New York City and, eventually, the country.

Reaching into his network of abolitionist connections and known clients from his old firm, Tappan was then able to assemble a network of credit investigators and attorneys who used local knowledge to assemble reports about outstanding debts, repayment rates, and defaults among the businesses in their cities and towns. A rating could then be provided to subscribers of the service, allowing them to reliably evaluate the risk of doing business with firms located thousands of miles away. The information problem at the root of previous complex credit arrangements could be mitigated through a market service that independently verified business reputations and conveyed their creditworthiness over long distances through simple consultation of a low-cost subscription paper.

Lewis Tappan’s innovation revolutionized the American finance industry. The direct successor to his Mercantile Agency still exists today as Dun & Bradstreet, and his idea of an independent credit-reporting entity became the standard verification instrument of modern business lending and investment practices. The information it provided as an external and accessible measure of reputation, in turn, allowed for reliable and regular transactions to occur over long distances, thereby helping to ignite an unprecedented expansion of access to markets and goods across the nation.

The origins of Tappan’s innovation remain a neglected feature in the history of American capitalism. A succinct account of the Mercantile Agency’s history may be found in an article by historians Brian Grinder and Dan Cooper for the Museum of American Finance. For a longer discussion, I recommend Roy A. Foulke’s 1941 text The Sinews of American Capitalism, which details its abolitionist origins (Foulke, a vice president of Dun & Bradstreet, was also an early benefactor of AIER and friend of E.C. Harwood).

Their fortunes renewed, the Tappan brothers remained devoted benefactors of the abolitionist cause. After the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 strengthened federal government efforts to recapture African-Americans in the north and return them to slavery, the brothers set up a network of lawyers to mount legal challenges to the renditions and, where possible, funneled money to support the Underground Railroad. Lewis also subsidized Lysander Spooner’s book The Unconstitutionality of Slavery and financed the printing of his abolitionist pamphlets.

Interest in the history of American capitalism is on the rise, although curiously this line of study is being advanced for anticapitalistic ideological reasons as may be found in the New York Times’ new 1619 Project, on American slavery. Much of the associated academic literature, including sources used by the Times, relies on empirically shoddy and politicized lines of research that several leading economic historians have conclusively refuted (my own comments on the problems with this subfield may be found here).

In eschewing factual analysis for political narratives, these scholars and the journalists who promote them appear to be far more interested in weaponizing the history of slavery with biased and even fabricated claims for the purpose of discrediting capitalism and free markets in the present day. They neglect the historical antagonism that existed between slave owners and free market capitalism, including a leading slavery defender who declared that capitalism was “at war with all kinds of slavery.”

It is therefore no small irony that one of the most important innovations in American financial history — the development of a reliable and replicable credit-reporting mechanism — owes its existence to a leading capitalist benefactor of the American antislavery movement. That innovation emerged as a tool for abolitionist business owners to escape violent harassment by racist mobs and coordinated economic targeting by plantation owners who sought to destroy the viability of their businesses. Lewis Tappan illustrated through his personal struggle and his economic entrepreneurship that American capitalism was, indeed, at war with slavery.

Arthur Tappan - History

The Sphere of the Believer's Life

Arthur Tappan Pierson,

Introduction to the Book

"There is in a Russian palace, a famous 'Saloon of Beauty,' [WStS Note― Definition: "saloon 2. A large room or hall for receptions, public entertainment, or exhibitions." ―from The American Heritage Dictionary.] wherein are hung over eight hundred and fifty portraits of young maidens. These pictures were painted by Count Rotari, for Catharine the Second, the Russian empress and the artist made a journey, through the fifty provinces of that vast empire of the north, to find his models.

In these superb portraits that cover the walls of this saloon, there is said to be a curiously expressed compliment to the artist's royal patron, a compliment half concealed and half revealed. In each separate picture, it is said, might be detected, by the close observer, some hidden, delicate reference to the empress for whom they were painted. Here a feature of Catharine appears there an attitude is reproduced, some act, some favorite adornment or environment, some jewel, fashion, flower, style of dress, or manner of life―something peculiar to, or characteristic of, the empress―so that the walls of the saloon are lined with just so many silent tributes to her beauty, or compliments to her taste. So inventive and ingenious is the spirit of human flattery when it seeks to glorify a human fellow-mortal, breaking its flask of lavish praise on the feet of an earthly monarch.

The Word of God is a picture gallery, and it is adorned with tributes to the blessed Christ of God the Savior of mankind. Here a prophetic portrait of the coming One, and there an historic portrayal of Him who has come, here a typical sacrifice, and there the bleeding Lamb to whom all sacrifice looked forward here a person or an event that foreshadowed the greatest of persons and the events that are the turning points of history now a parable, a poem, an object lesson, and then a simple narration or exposition or explanation, that fills with divine meaning the mysteries that have hid their meaning for ages, waiting for the key that should unlock them. But, in whatever form or fashion, whatever guise of fact or fancy, prophecy or history, parable or miracle, type or antitype, allegory or narrative, a discerning eye may everywhere find Him―God's appointed Messiah, God's anointed Christ. Not a human grace that has not been a faint forecast or reflection of His beauty, in whom all grace was enshrined and enthroned―not a virtue that is not a new exhibition of His attractiveness. All that is glorious is but a phase of His infinite excellence, and so all truth and holiness, found in the Holy Scripture, are only a new tribute to Him who is the Truth, the Holy One of God.

This language is no exaggeration on such a theme not only is exaggeration impossible, but the utmost superlative of human language falls infinitely short of His divine worth, before whose indescribable glory cherubim and seraphim can only bow, veiling their faces and covering their feet. The nearer we come to the very throne where such majesty sits, the more are we awed into silence. The more we know of Him, the less we seem to know, for the more boundless and limitless appears what remains to be known. Nothing is so conspicuous a seal of God upon the written Word, as the fact that everywhere, from Genesis to Revelation, we may find the Christ and nothing more sets the seal of God upon the living Word than the fact that He alone explains and reveals the Scriptures.

Our present undertaking is a very simple one. We seek to show, by a few examples, the boundless range and scope of one brief phrase of two or three short words: in Christ, or, in Christ Jesus. A very small key may open a very complex lock and a very large door, and that door may itself lead into a vast building with priceless stores of wealth and beauty. This brief phrase―a preposition followed by a proper name―is the key to the whole New Testament.

Those three short words, in Christ Jesus, are, without doubt, the most important ever written, even by an inspired pen, to express the mutual relation of the believer and Christ. They occur, with their equivalents, over one hundred and thirty times. Sometimes we meet the expression, in Christ or in Christ Jesus, and again in Him, or in whom, etc. And sometimes this sacred name, or its equivalent pronoun, is found associated with other prepositions―through, with, by but the thought is essentially the same. Such repetition and variety must have some intense meaning. When, in the Word of God, a phrase like this occurs so often, and with such manifold applications, it can not be a matter of accident there is a deep design. God's Spirit is bringing a truth of the highest importance before us, repeating for the sake of emphasis, compelling even the careless reader to give heed as to some vital teaching.

What that teaching is, in this case, it is our present purpose to inquire, and, in the light of the Scripture itself, to answer.

First of all, we should carefully settle what this phrase, in Christ, or in Christ Jesus, means.

If there be one truth of the Gospel that is fundamental, and underlies all else, it is this: A new life in Christ Jesus. He, Himself, clearly and forcibly expressed it in John 15:4: "Abide in me and I in you." By a matchless parable our Lord there taught us that all believers are branches of the Living Vine, and that, apart from Him we are nothing and can do nothing because we have in us no life. This truth finds expression in many ways in the Holy Scripture, but most frequently in that short and simple phrase we are now considering―in Christ Jesus.

Such a phrase suggests that He is to the believer the sphere of this new life or being. Let us observe―a sphere rather than a circle. A circle surrounds us, but only on one plane but a sphere encompasses, envelopes us, surrounding us in every direction and on every plane. If you draw a circle on the floor, and step within its circumference, you are within it only on the level of the floor. But, if that circle could become a sphere, and you be within it, it would on every side surround you―above and below, before and behind, on the right hand and on the left. Moreover, the sphere that surrounds you also separates you from whatever is outside of it. Again, in proportion as such a sphere is strong it also protects whatever is within it from all that is without―from all external foes or perils. And yet again, it supplies, to whomsoever is within it, whatever it contains. This may help us to understand the great truth taught with such clearness, especially in the New Testament. Christ is there presented throughout as the sphere of the believer's whole life and being, and in this truth are included these conditions:

First, Christ Jesus surrounds or embraces the believer, in His own life second, He separates the believer in Himself from all hostile influences third, He protects him in Himself from all perils and foes of his life fourth, He provides and supplies in Himself all that is needful.

We shall see a further evidence of the vital importance of the phrase, in Christ, in the fact that these two words unlock and interpret every separate book in the New Testament. Here is God's own key, whereby we may open all the various doors and enter all the glorious rooms in this Palace Beautiful, and explore all the apartments in the house of the heavenly Interpreter, from Matthew to the Apocalypse, where the door is opened into heaven. Each of the four gospel narratives, the book of the Acts, all of the epistles of Paul and Peter, James and John, and Jude, with the mysterious Revelation of Jesus Christ, show us some new relation sustained by Christ Jesus to the believer, some new aspect of Christ as his sphere of being, some new benefit or blessing enjoyed by him who is thus in Christ Jesus.

To demonstrate and illustrate this is the aim of this study of the New Testament. And, for brevity's sake, it may be well to confine our examination to the epistles of Paul, from Romans to Thessalonians, which will be seen to bear to each other, and to the phrase we are studying, a unique and complete relation. We shall trace this phrase in every one of these epistles, and find it sometimes recurring with marked frequency and variety, generally very close to the very beginning of each epistle and usually we shall find also that the first occurrence of the phrase, in each epistle, determines its particular relation to that particular book, thus giving us a key to the special phase of the general subject presented in that epistle. The more we study the phrase and the various instances and peculiar varieties of such recurrence, the more shall we be convinced of its vital importance to all practical holy living.

In tracing the uses and bearings of this significant phrase, it will serve the purpose we have in view to regard the epistles to each of the various churches as one, even when there are two. This will give us seven instances of the application of the phrase, which will be found to be similar in the two Epistles to the Corinthians and the two addressed to the Thessalonians. We may for our purpose, therefore, regard both epistles in each of these cases as parts of one and we shall, therefore, have before us this simple study: to examine the particular application of this expression, in Christ, or in Christ Jesus, as used by Paul in writing to the Romans, the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, and the Thessalonians." ―A. T. Pierson

Walkabout: Brooklyn and the Fight for Freedom

Brooklyn was home to one of the largest concentrations of anti-slavery activists in the entire United States. Decades before the Civil War, Brooklynites not only fought the good fight against slavery, but they were the leaders in many of the metropolitan area’s many organizations and causes. This was both ironic and just, as Kings County had also been home to the largest number of slaveholding citizens in the North. New York State was the last of the Northern states to abolish slavery, in 1827, long after most of the rest of the North had abandoned the institution.

Slavery just didn’t sit well with the industrialized North, and made little sense, economically or morally. But New York City? Well, that was a different story. It wasn’t that slaves were needed in the city itself, or that state, for that matter. It was, as it always is in New York, about money. Many of the city’s wealthiest and most powerful financiers, merchants, commodities traders and shipping magnates made a ton of money from slavery. They were the bankers to the plantations, the markets for the cotton, tobacco and other crops, and they shipped the goods from Southern ports to destinations in New York, Brooklyn and all over the world. If slavery ended, so did their massive profits and their way of life. It wasn’t personal, it was business.

In the decades after the Revolutionary War, the anti-slavery movement gained ground in New York City and Brooklyn. Many different abolitionist societies were formed, and some of them counted as members some of the most influential men and women in both cities. But in the massive disconnect that the institution of slavery produced, some of these men belonged to the Abolitionist societies while still having slaves, and others joined while still supporting their plantation and slave-owning clients in the South. Some of them had the grace to see the dichotomy, others did not.

Finally, in 1827, New York abolished slavery within its borders. Lawmakers and business interests had placed a large number of conditions on the manumission of slaves up until that point, but that was all over now. All of New York’s slaves were now, and forever free. There was great celebration in the black communities all over the city, and in many white communities, as well. As soon as the celebrations stopped, the work to abolish slavery everywhere in the United States took on a new urgency. If all of the slaves in the United States were not free, could anyone of color feel safe to live his or her own life, knowing that there but for the grace of God, and geography, went they?

Lewis Tappan. Photo via Wikipedia

Most of us are aware of the great leaders of the anti-slavery movement who lived in Brooklyn. The most well-known is Henry Ward Beecher, the firebrand preacher of Pilgrim Congregational Church in Brooklyn Heights. He may have been the most famous, but he was but one of a great many of Brooklyn’s abolitionist leaders. Many of those leaders were themselves African American.

Black people in Brooklyn in the mid-19th century had a two-fold mission. The first was to establish themselves as equal citizens of Brooklyn and the United States equal in opportunity, work and commerce, education, social opportunities and citizenship. This was quite difficult in a town that refused to educate Negro children in its public schools, or hire blacks for jobs beyond their “station.” In spite of that inequality, Brooklyn’s black population was also dedicated to working for the end of enslavement for millions of men, women and children who toiled in endless slavery, the masters and mistresses of nothing.

Although they shared many of the same goals, Brooklyn’s white and black abolitionists did not interact all that much with each other. They still lived in separate worlds, and had very different expectations and goals. There were exceptions to this, of course, and as the anti-slavery movement grew in power and influence, all of the leaders found themselves in physical danger, as well.

Two of the most influential of Brooklyn’s white anti-slavery activists were the Tappan brothers. Arthur and Lewis Tappan were millionaire merchants, living in Manhattan in the early 1830s. Both were also very religious men. To a large extent, Lewis’ religious convictions were shaped by his attendance in the church of Lyman Beecher, Henry Ward Beecher’s father, whose religious philosophies also shaped his son. He came to NYC from Massachusetts with a zeal for social justice, and a firm commitment to Christian principles.

Once in NYC, Lewis joined Arthur’s business, and both were hugely successful. They supported religious organizations such as the American Bible Society and the American Education Society, but soon became caught up in the Anti-slavery movement. Both brother were highly offended by slavery, as well as by the mistreatment of blacks in general, and put their time and money into action.

Lewis and Arthur Tappan were among the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society, one of the most important of the many abolitionist organizations in the United States, founded in 1833. They supported the publication of anti-slavery journals, and helped found Oberlin College, in Ohio, which admitted black students equally with white, male and female. They also supported the crew of the Amistad during their trial in Brooklyn.

The Amistad was the Spanish slave ship that was on its way to deliver new captives into slavery, when those captives took over the ship, which landed in New Haven. Some wanted the former captives returned as “property” others wanted them to be welcomed into the United States, while others wanted them to be sent back to Africa. That’s a tale for another day, but the Tappan’s were instrumental in getting food, clothing and aid to those on the ship, as it lay in the harbor while the authorities tried to decide their fate. They also arranged for top legal representation, and paid for the eventual reparation of the former captives, back to Africa. In doing so, they met with other white and black abolitionists who lived in Brooklyn.

In 1834, Lewis Tappan opened up the chapel next to his home on Chatham Street, for the annual celebration of Emancipation Day, where New York’s African Americans celebrated the end of slavery in New York. A large group of black and white celebrants gathered at the chapel, which was one of the few mixed congregations in the city, and Tappan read aloud the “Declaration of Sentiments,” the mission statement of the Anti-Slavery Society. That year, a group of pro-slavery white demonstrators crashed the party, and then began trashing the chapel and fighting with the celebrants, sparking a riot that lasted for several days. At the end of it, Tappan’s chapel and home were in ruins, his furniture and possessions taken out and burned, so he, his wife and children moved to Brooklyn Heights.

Six years after founding the American Anti-Slavery Society, the Tappan’s brought a branch to Brooklyn, called the Brooklyn Anti-Slavery Society. The officers and core members of the group all lived in Brooklyn Heights or Cobble Hill. They were all merchants, plus one lawyer, and there were no blacks in their organization. They were also all men. Their wives formed their own societies, with similar goals, but with a different focus, often mixing abolition with general women’s rights. The tales of babies torn from slave mothers’ arms, and the cruelty of men, especially towards women, made these ladies especially fierce opponents to slavery, sometimes even more so than their male counterparts.

Lewis Tappan lived at 86 Pierrepont Street, a house that is still standing, albeit with great alterations. He and his first wife Susannah moved there after the riots, and Lewis Tappan lived there for the rest of his life. Their daughters were both active in anti-slavery organizations, and became leaders in the women’s abolitionists movement. Susannah died in 1853, and he married his second wife, Sarah, a year later. She was also a staunch abolitionist and participated in anti-slavery organizations. The Tappan’s worshipped at Henry Ward Beecher’s Plymouth Church. Both Tappan brothers lived to see slavery end. Arthur died in 1865 in New Haven, Ct. while Lewis died in Brooklyn in 1873.

Lewis had some views that alienated him from many of the white abolitionists he worked with. He believed that intermarriage between the races was the only long term solution to racism. Only when everyone was the same would hatred cease. He was an “immediatist,” who didn’t want slavery to phase out, but be ended immediately. This ruffled the feathers of those who were still profiting from the labor of Southern slavery. After the Civil War, he donated generously to schools, black colleges, and mission societies that sought to educate blacks, and advance the race in American society, but he didn’t think there would ever be equality, unless is was taken, not asked for. In many ways, he was far ahead of his time, although he didn’t believe in women’s rights.

While the very rich and influential, like Lewis Tappan, could be an organizational and financial boon to any movement, most of the black people involved in the fight for abolishing slavery had far less money and influence in the greater community. Brooklyn’s black population was extremely active in the anti-slavery movement, but in an entirely different manner. The 1830s were a frustrating time for the activists. Slavery was going strong, and all the talking and activism seemed to be going nowhere. They were just preaching to the choir. Meanwhile, the enslaved were beginning to put their feet on the road, and were escaping north with a regularity that disturbed Southern officials.

People like Frederick Douglass were not only escaping north, they were turning around and becoming the slaveholder’s worst nightmare: eloquent and intelligent survivors who were telling their stories and galvanizing the movement in the North. Slave catchers began flooding Northern cities, looking to re-capture escapees. Very often they would just snatch people up off the street, including blacks who had never been slaves, and whisk them down South and into slavery, often gone forever. Many Northern lawmakers did not concern themselves to stop them.

The Abolitionist Movement had to change, and become pro-active. It was called “practical abolitionism,” and it meant getting in the faces of the oppressors, and sometimes physically defending yourself and others. The greatest of these practical abolitionists was a studious looking black man named David Ruggles. His story is next.

David Ruggles, the Tappan brothers, and many of Brooklyn’s known and unknown valiant anti-slavery warriors are part of a ground breaking project called In Pursuit of Freedom: Anti-Slavery Activism and the Culture of Abolitionism in Antebellum Brooklyn. The project was a joint effort of the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Weeksville Heritage Center and the Irondale Theater Ensemble, and represents years of research and investigation into this little known area of American History. There’s a website connected to the project, as well as exhibits and a theatrical production.

Watch the video: Liza Minnelli and Dudley Moore presenting Academy Awards 1988 (January 2022).