Delaware Free Press (1830-1833)

Delaware Free Press (1830 -1833)

 “No Opinion should be held too sacred for examination; Nor too absurd for investigation.”

Prospectus: It is designed that the columns of the “Free Press” shall be open to the free, chaste, and temperate discussion of all subjects connected with the welfare of the human family, fully believing that the cause of Truth has nothing to fear from investigation. One principal object of the “Free Press” will be to awaken the attention of the working people to the importance of cooperating in order to attain that rank and station in society to which they are justly entitled by their virtues and industry, but from which they have been excluded by want of a system of equal republican education. Such a system will be advocated by the “Free Press.” We claim not to be sectarians, nor do we hold to speculative skepticism. We will, however, invite to discussion, those sentiments which have ever arrayed sect against sect, and at this day propose the unnatural union of Church and State, particularly through the late strenuous efforts to induce the National Legislature to prohibit the transportation of the Mails on Sunday.

Examined: 1:1 (Jan. 2, 1830) – 2:52 (Dec. 24, 1831).

Editors: Benjamin Webb and W.W. Baker.[1]

Publication Information: Wilmington Delaware, 1:1 (Jan. 2, 1830) – 2:52 (Dec. 24, 1831).

Frequency: Weekly, 1:1 (Jan. 2, 1830) – 2:52 (Dec. 24, 1831).

Contributors: J.D. Coleman, Justitia, George R. M’Farlane, Medicus, Publicola, George Reynolds, Joel Swayne, Veritas, and Vindicator.

Subjects/Features: Equal Republican System of Education, Sunday Mails, Working Men’s Party, Evidences of Christianity, Hicksites (Society of Friends), Quakerism, Reform of the Judiciary in Delaware, Constitutional Convention (Delaware), Farming and Husbandry, Imprisonment for Debt, Labor Saving Machinery, Sectarianism, Anti-Masonry, News from Europe, Reviews/Commentaries on William Gibbon’s pamphlet entitled An Exposition of Modern Scepticism, and Poetry.

Reprints/Extracts: George H. Toulmin, The Eternity of the Universe, and the writings of Voltaire.

Periodical Reprints from: Free Enquirer (New York), Southern Free Press (Charleston, S.C.), Spirit of the Age (Alabama), and the New York Daily Sentinel.


Church and State

Sabbath Observances

“Sunday Mails.” 1:10 (Mar. 6, 1830): 2. Featured are two articles on the “Sunday Mails.” In the first article, Justitia states, “The question now before Congress, touching the running of the mails and opening the post office on Sundays, is one eminently entitled to our most mature consideration; it involves a religious controversy- proposes to establish religion’s preference- and will, if the prayer of the memorialists be granted, determine what is and what is not the law of God. Every true republican, therefore, should use all his influence, and exert every energy to defeat the accomplishment of so dangerous a scheme.” In the second, “An American” exclaims, “When Congress shall dare decide upon what is the law of God in religious matters, then shall priestcraft reign triumphantly.”

Congressional. House of Representatives. Report.” 1:12 (Mar. 20, 1830): 1-2. Rep. Richard Johnson of Kentucky issued this report on behalf of the House Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads, in response to the petitions and remonstrances against the transportation and opening of the public mail on Sunday.

William McCreery. “Congressional. House of Representatives.” 1:13 (Mar. 27, 1830): 1-2. This is the minority report from the House Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads.

“Richard M. Johnson.” And “Sunday Mails.” 2:9 (Feb. 26, 1831): 1. Included here is a letter from Representative Johnson in reply to a remonstrance against stopping the mails on Sunday, submitted by the citizens of Pittsburgh, and a resolution from the Illinois state Senate also opposing the stopping of the mails on Sunday.

“Sunday Mails.” 2:11-12 (Mar. 12-19, 1831). An extract of an article written by Judge Hopkinson, from the American Quarterly Review, reprinted from the Philadelphia Crisis with commentary. Hopkinson remarks, “These good people who prescribe to others how they shall keep the Sabbath . . . . would deem themselves and their dearest rights to be outraged beyond endurance, if any such attempts were made to direct and control their opinions and conduct. . . . But it never occurs to them, that they are exercising the same tyranny over the freedom of opinion and the rights of conscience, when they would prohibit others from doing what they truly and conscientiously believe to be innocent and useful.”

Freedom of Conscience

“Freedom of Conscience.” 2:6 (Feb. 5, 1831): 2. Reprinted from the New York Daily Sentinel. The author states, “In this country we do not claim permissions to hold creeds and opinions. We have a right to express our belief- in the idol Juggernaut, if we are fools enough. The government is not authorized only, it is imperatively bound, to protect the believer in Juggernaut in his worship and opinions, just as punctiliously as the most orthodox Calvinist in the land.”



“Secrets Revealed,” reprinted from the Free Enquirer (New York) and “Orthodox Plans Exposed,” reprinted from the Trumpet (Boston). 1:48-49 (Nov. 27- Dec. 4, 1830). In “Secrets Revealed,” the author asks, “Why should there not be formed in each town and village a ‘Society for the Suppression of Ecclesiastical Encroachments?’ There is no vice in this republic more dangerous, or that needs suppression more. . . . Do Liberals ask where is the necessity for such a union, and where the danger to be thus guarded against? Let them read “Orthodox Plans Exposed” and they will find the questions answered.”

W.W.B. “Authenticity of the Scriptures, and Fundamental Doctrines of Quaker Christianity [According to the Berean].” 2:32-35 (Aug. 6- 27, 1831). Excerpting numerous passages from William Gibbon’s Berean, the author points out the irony of Gibbon’s persecution of Benjamin Webb for publishing a paper which questions the authenticity of scriptures and the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, when Gibbon’s himself questioned the authenticity of the five books of Moses, the historical and genealogical part of the old testament, the whole of the New Testament, and the doctrines of original sin, sanctification and justification, and of atonement in his paper, the Berean, five years earlier.

“Revivals.” 2:41 (Oct. 8, 1831): 2. The author describes the “mad fanaticism” and “religious mania” which occurred at a two-week long revival in Bellville, New York.

Religion and Science

W.W. “Traditional Religion Opposed to Science.” 1:20 (May 15, 1830): 2-3. The author begins, “The universal experience of all ages, since the Christian era, has proven this truth that traditional religion has ever stood in the path of science, wielding her fire and faggot against those who have had the hardihood to make new discoveries in opposition to antiquated theories.”

Religion and Morality

J.D. Coleman. “To Abner Kneeland.” 1:10, 19 (Mar. 6, May 8, 1830). Coleman examines Kneeland’s Review of the Evidences of Christianity and contends that Christianity in no sense depends on the “historical accounts of the New Testament nor on the existence of Jesus Christ. The precepts contained in that book and said to have been taught by him are in themselves immutable and eternal.”

Abner Kneeland. “To J.D. Coleman.” 1:18, 23 (May 1, June 5, 1830). Reprinted from the Free Enquirer. Kneeland asks, “Now I have not disputed the Truths of any precepts recorded in the New Testament that are strictly and purely moral. But why call that Christianity? What moral precept is found in the New Testament that is not to be found in the morals of other sages of still greater antiquity? That there are good morals taught in the New Testament I admit, but I see no good reason why morality should be considered, much less called, Christianity.”

Epictetus. “Religion and Morality.” 2:24 (June 17, 1831): 2. The author contends that, “Religion does not found morals upon the nature of man- upon his relations with his fellow men; it is founded upon supposed relations with an unknown and incomprehensible being: thus religion has not given a sure, known and just basis to morals. Religion is the productive art and mystery of directing the attention of mankind to those subjects which they can never comprehend.”

Land and Labor

“Imprisonment for Debt.” 1:11 (Mar. 13, 1830): 1. Reprinted from Spirit of the Age (Rochester, N.Y.). The author begins, “We consider imprisonment for debt as a relic of barbarism, unworthy of the age and nation in which we live, defective in its design, and unjust in operation.”

“Origins of the Working Men’s Party.” 1:20 (May 15, 1830): 2. Reprinted from the New York Daily Sentinel.

George R. M’Farlane and H.W. “Working Man’s Advocate.” 1:33 (Aug. 14, 1830): 3. The authors announce the commencement of the Working Man’s Advocate in Boston and provides extracts from the editor’s inaugural address which reads, in part, “To support and vindicate the rights and interests of the middling classes, to advocate the glorious plan of universal education- to aid in abolishing imprisonment for debt- to plead the cause of the oppressed and innocent, and to assist in breaking the chains of ignorance, that are fast entwining around us, is the sole purpose of the ‘Advocate,’ and the highest object of our ambition. We will interfere with no man’s principles or opinions; it is the cause of Liberty and Humanity we would serve; we are raising an army- not to quarrel among ourselves about religious creeds and political predilections- but to assert the rights of man, and crush domestic tyranny as boldly and unitedly as we repelled foreign invasion.”

G. R. “To the Working People of the State of Delaware.” 1:33-40 (Aug. 14- Oct. 2, 1830). The author calls for working class unity and begins, “The immortal framers of our national government have wisely placed in the hands of the people the power of correcting all evils that may arise in its administration; and thus if the only legitimate object for which governments are instituted- ‘the greatest good of the greatest number’- is not obtained, the fault rests with the people, and at the same time the remedy is in their hands.”

“Debtors and Creditors.” 1:41-42 (Oct. 9-16, 1830). The author argues that “a system of credit, interest for credit, &c. deprives men in many ways, of their just dues, of their liberties, and even of their lives. It is a system of speculation, shaving, cheating and oppression; a system of swindling, knavery and deception; attended with fear, anxiety, disappointment, crosses, losses, and every kind of trial and distress. All are liable to insolvency, and thousands fail in a system of credit, of suretyship, and interest.”

Thomas Herttell, Samuel Robinson, John B. White & George Anderson. “Declaration of the Objects and Measures of the Farmers, Mechanics, and Other Working Men, of the City and County of New York; Addressed to the Farmers, Mechanics, and Working men of the United States.” 2:20-23 (May 14- June 4, 1831).

W. Jackson. “An Enquiry into the Influence of Banking on the Condition of the Labouring Classes.” 2:43 (Oct. 22, 1831): 1-2. Jackson begins, “An opinion has been entertained by many sincere friends of human improvement, that Banking has a tendency to make the rich richer; and the poor poorer; and consequently strikes a deadly blow at the foundation of Republicanism, by assisting to raise an Aristocracy and at the same time degrading the body of the people into a state of dependence, inconsistent with that equality of rights which is the pride and boast of the freeborn sons of America.”


Africanus. “Communications.” 1:29 (July 17, 1830): 2-3. In an untitled letter, Africanus assures the editors that “the enlightened part of the population of colored people, in this country, are strenuously opposed to emigration to Liberia” and that the Colonization Society’s efforts to establish colonial settlements on the coast of Africa will “never meliorate the condition of our colored brethren in these United States.”

Abraham D. Shad, Peter Spencer & William S. Thomas. “Address of the Free People of Color of the Borough of Wilmington, Delaware.” 2:32 (Aug. 6, 1831): 2-3. The authors express their “unequivocal disapprobation of the American Colonization Society” and argues that their plan is actually impeding the emancipation of slaves in the Southern states.


“Public Education.” 1:20-25 (May 15- June 19, 1830). Reprinted from the New York Daily Sentinel. The author asks and answers the following questions: what sort of education is befitting a Republic; whence are the funds to come, to support a system of Republican education; what sort of education is good enough for the common people; is public education best conducted in boarding schools or day in schools; and are agriculture and trades fit branches of education in public schools?

Law and Government

W.H. “Communications.” 1:42 (Oct. 16, 1830): 3. In an untitled letter, the author argues that “Divine rights and human rights must forever clash; hence the necessity of revolutions in all divinely constituted governments. If then we must have societies, let them be under human government that they may advance with the advancement of human understanding.

Reviews of William Gibbon, An Exposition of Modern Scepticism

Vindicator. “A Review of Modern Scepticism.” 1:4-6, 8 (Jan. 23- Feb. 6, 27, 1830).

Robert Dale Owen. “To William Gibbons.” 1:7-10 (Feb. 13- Mar. 6, 1830). Reprinted from the Free Enquirer.

J. Swayne. “The Book”- The Pamphlet.” 1:9 Feb. 27, 1830): 2.

Elisha Bates. “Exposition of Modern Scepticism.” 1:12 (Mar. 20, 1830): 2-3. Reprinted from Miscellaneous Repository (Mount Pleasant, Ohio).

Robert Dale Owen. “To Benjamin Ferris.” 1:13-17 (Mar. 27- Apr. 24, 1830). Reprinted from the Free Enquirer.

Amos Gilbert. “Strictures on ‘An Exposition of Modern Scepticism.’” 2:6-8 (Feb. 5-19, 1831).


Editor. “To the Public.” 1:1 (Jan. 2, 1830): 3. The editor announces that utility is “the primary object of the paper- particularly that of relieving the injured and distressed of all classes and conditions, and to increase the sum of happiness, without regard to sect, colour, or station in society.”

“Opinion.” 2:28 (July 9, 1831): 1-2. Reprinted from Spirit of the Age. The author regrets that while many recognize the value of free enquiry, many also believe that some “subjects are too sacred to be profaned” and while they would not wish to see free enquiry suppressed by law, “they would frown it out of countenance, and hush it into silence, by the imposing claims of prescription and antiquity.”

Worldcat Accession Numbers: 2638997, 40181484.

Overall, the quality of the microfilm from Yale University is very poor, with numerous articles, and even whole issues, unreadable, due to blotches on the film

Am. Antiquarian Society has a bound volume containing scattered issues between January 21, 1832 and June 22, 1833.


[1] Albert Post, Popular Freethought in America, 1825-1850 71 (New York: Octagon Books, 1974). According to an editorial in the Delaware Free Press, members of the Society of Friends partly owned and edited the paper. 1:45 (Nov. 6, 1830): 3.