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TheHistorical Societyhas recently
acquired on eBay a significant letter
written by noted Abolitionist, Seth
Gateswho lived inLeRoy.
Seth Gates was born in Winfield,
NewYork (HerkimerCounty) in1800.
His father was also named Seth and
his grandfatherwas ElijahGates.The
familymoved to Sheldon, New York
(in Wyoming County) in 1806. He
attended Middlebury Academy in
Wyoming and then taught there.He
served as the inspector of the com-
mon schools and taught school in
SouthWarsaw in1821.
Thenbeginning in1823,hestudied
lawwith theHon.Heaman J.Redfield
of LeRoyandwasadmitted to theBar
in 1827. He was a law partner of A.P.
Hascall. In 1832, he entered politics,
running on the Anti Masonic ticket
and was elected a member of the
StateAssembly fromGeneseeCounty.
George Tomlinson wrote about
SethGates: “SethM.Gateswas clerk
or proprietor in a store that stood at
theeastendoftheMainStreetbridge.
(inLeRoy.) I called there tobuy some
(gun)powderandshot.Mr.Gateswas
in the midst of an animated discus-
sion upon the slavery question. He
seemed tobealoneon theabolition
side, and handled his half a dozen
opponents in such a way as to im-
pressme that hewas enough for all
of them. I knewnothing about logic
orgovernment,but theargumenthe
made captivated my youthful mind
andaffordedmaterial for reflection ...
Scores of times in imagination have
I seenhimwith the powder canister
in hand, his right arm raised as if to
smitehisopponent to theearth,and
heardhim say,‘Slavery is a condition
of warfare supportedby the tyrants’
argument, might makes right.’ Of
course his vigorous language filled
me with respect for the man and I
came to the conclusion as the boys
phrased it, ‘He is dead earnest.’ He
wasanaggressivenatureandhewas
always loyal tohis convictionshence
the conservatives calledhim fanatic.
But I notice this, that his predictions
came topass.”
Tomlinson claimed that there
were four avowed abolitionists in
LeRoy and Seth Gates was one of
themost outspoken. InAugust 1835,
anAnti Slaverymeetingwas held in
the LeRoy Presbyterian Church. The
speakers were Dr. Reed, a physician
from Rochester and the Rev. A.A.
Phelps of Massachusetts. The win-
dows of the roomwere broken, the
audience was drenched with water
and a 12-foot plank was pitched in
upon theaudience through thewin-
dow. Judge Hascall and others were
stoned for their efforts to disperse
themob. Thewindows of the home
of SethGateswere smashed andhis
wife and children had to seek ref-
uge in an inner room. (It is believed
that at this time,Gatesandhis family
were living in thebrick house, at the
pointofSummitStreet,knownas the
TaylorHouse.)
Gateswasalso theeditorof the
Le-
RoyGazette
and it becameapolitical
arm for theWhigAbolitionists.Many
people threatened to cancel their
subscriptions, while others encour-
aged the views of the paper. Gates
was in the middle of the politics of
ThurlowWeed,HoraceGreeley,Tam-
many Hall, Locofocos, Tippi-Canoe
and Tyler Too. In 1839, Gates wrote
a letter to Gerritt Smith, one of the
leading abolitionists, who had criti-
cized the Whig Party’s anti-slavery
position. Gates’ letter was printed in
everyWhigpaper in theNorth.
InMarch1836,over 100delegates
fromGeneseeCountymetat theBat-
aviaCourtHouse todiscuss theabo-
litionof slavery.The courthousewas
besieged by a group of angry busi-
nessmen, who demanded that the
abolitionists leave. Seth Gates and
four other menmet with the group
to explain their position.Meanwhile
the gallery of the courthouse was
seized by an angry mob who pro-
ceeded to interrupt theproceedings
by ringingbells andunearthlyhowl-
ing. Gates said that the men “made
up in sound and furywhat they lack
in senseanddecency.”
The letter purchased by the His-
torical Societywaswritten inAugust
1839. At this time, Gates had been
elected to Congress in Washington
as an Anti-Slavery Whig candidate
but the 26thCongress didnotmeet
until December 1839, so Gates was
still in LeRoy. The letter is written
to Ephraim Goss (1806-1877) who
was a lawyer in Pittsford, New York.
Goss had served as a Justice of the
Peace and was the Pittsford Super-
visor from 1835–1836. At the time
the Gates’ letter was written, Goss
was also serving as Clerk of Monroe
County. (Goss served as Supervisor
again in1847-1848and1855.Healso
served in the State Senate in 1860&
1861.)
This letter iswrittenbetween two
very politically active men, who are
trying todecidewhichcounty,Gene-
seeorMonroehad the right toplace
a candidate for Senator. Gates tells
Goss that if Monroe County names
General Bellows, that hewould sup-
port that nomination because he
had servedwithhim in theNewYork
Assembly in1832,whenBellowswas
anAnti-Mason fromMonroeCounty.
Gates hadmet Bellows again inUti-
ca in 1838, when Bellows was still a
Whig and Gates presumed that he
and Bellows shared the same views
about slavery. Goss, likemany other
lawyers, had studied law under Bel-
lows.
LeRoy,NY,Aug.9,1839
,
fromSeth
M.Gates, to EphraimGoss, at Roches-
ter,N.Y.
“Your letter suggesting theearlycall
of Senatorial Convention, is rec’d, & I
have this day writtenMr. Soper, Clerk
of thisCounty,upon the subject. Ihave
not the names of the Committee, but,
ALetter fromSethM.Gates
SethGatesdiedAugust 24,1877and is
buried in theWarsawCemetery.
1 3,4,5,6
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