Missouri Digital Heritage :: Education :: Early Slave Laws :: George Thompson: An Abolitionist's Struggle

Missouri's Early Slave Laws:
A History in Documents

George Thompson: An Abolitionist's Struggle

In 1841, abolitionist George Thompson was sentenced to twelve years at the Missouri State Penitentiary for "slave abduction." He and two other abolitionists crossed the Mississippi River into Marion County, Missouri from Quincy, Illinois, with the intent of helping slaves escape to Canada.

After serving four years at the penitentiary, Thompson asked for a pardon; petitions from Ohio, Indiana, and other states supported his request. These petitions reveal much about attitudes of the time toward slavery and abolitionists. Thompson's letter to penitentiary inspectors states, "Although we cannot feel that Slavery is right, yet we do feel that much of our effort to do it away has been a 'zeal not according to knowledge'; and can now exercise a charity for slaveholders, which we did not before possess." Thompson was pardoned on June 24, 1846.

Read the Primary Source Documents relating to Thompson's case, including a petition and Thompson's written request for release from the Missouri State Penitentiary.