A Sermon to the Medical Students
An 1849 moral reform sermon in Philadelphia by Lucretia Mott, with antislavery content. Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.
Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) was a Quaker leader, proto-feminist, and abolitionist. During the early 1820s she became involved in antislavery speaking after moving to
As a center for medical education,
The sermon begins with expressions of care that the city not corrupt students (5) and finds the origin of self-respect in the cultivation of individual conscience (7). Mott argues that they live in an age when individuals are rejecting schismatic dogmas and finding a Christian “light of truth in themselves.” (8) In this new age “The former dependence on the monopoly of the pulpit is broken, and the people are thinking and acting for themselves…” (11) It is this reformation that has given rise to the temperance and antislavery movements. Addressing slavery as evil and sin, she challenges the audience directly to ask “How far, by permission, by apology, or otherwise, you are found lending your sanction to a system which degrades and brutalizes three millions of our fellow human beings [?]” (14) The temptations surrounding students, Mott suggests, include acquiescence to the sin of slavery. Mott’s messianic concluding rhetoric draws a picture of social reforms advancing in all directions, including a peace movement that will achieve universal justice. (18ff)
For further on the social context of Mott’s work and her sermon, see Nancy Isenberg, “’Pillars in the Same Temple and Priests of the Same Worship’: Woman’s Rights and the Politics of Church and State in Antebellum America,” The Journal of American History 85 (June 1998) 1: 98-128, and Ira V. Brown, “Cradle of Feminism: The Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, 1833-1840,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 102 (1978) 2: 143-166.
- Joe Lockard