The Lane Theological Seminary debates which transpired in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1834, occurred because the students wanted to discuss the idea of abolition versus colonization. These debates are often overlooked or disregarded in the history of abolition in the United States. My Independent Study aims to shed light on this historic event in a way that has not been done before. I focused on the time surrounding the debates and those involved in it because of the lack of comprehensive information on this subject in the historiography of American abolitionism.

My Senior Independent Study is a website, A Cause for Freedom, featuring original documents written by those who were at Lane Seminary during the time of the debates and resulting rebellion, therefore, I do not have a specific argument about the Lane debates or the activist role of the seminary’s students. To see these documents in person, I first visited the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in July of 2017. The process of creating my website has taken many steps. I utilized microfilm of the records provided by the Presbyterian Historical Society to scan the Lane Seminary documents, and label and categorize each page. This process took over a month to complete. I did not include every single document within the Lane Theological Seminary Records to be on this site. I chose specific documents based on the author, date, and if the document focused on the Lane debates and rebels. While photo shopping the documents, and filling out the Dublin Core metadata on Omeka, I transcribed the documents with the help of my mom, who was able to read the 19th century handwriting better than I could. Along with my written historiography, I also crafted collections and exhibits for the website. For an additional interpretation, I have included my exhibits, which are adapted for this paper.

A Cause for Freedom website is composed with information from many primary sources that originated in the 19th century as well as a handful of secondary scholarly sources. Many of the secondary sources come from biographies of those who were involved with the seminary. My website explores the lives of educated men in the 19th century, and the specific event of the Lane Theological Seminary debates. Without these debates and subsequent rebellion, many men would not have been able to spread their abolitionist influences across the United States.


Holt, Katherine




Social History | United States History


Lane Theological Seminary, Lane Seminary, Lane debates, Lane rebels, Lyman Beecher, Theodore Weld, abolition, colonization

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2018 Madeline E. Smith