70 Pack Cooperstown Village Hall
For Underground Railroad Lecture
COOPERSTOWN – Hartwick Seminary Academy, forerunner of Hartwick College, and Isaac Newton Arnold in particular loomed large this afternoon as Harry Bradshaw Matthews, director of Hartwick’s U.S. Colored Troops Institute, detailed the county’s role in the Underground Railroad that ferried a half-million slaves to freedom in the decades before the Civil War.
Arnold, born in Hartwick in 1815, attended the academy, was tutored in the law by Cooperstown attorneys, then moved to Illinois, where he met a young fellow lawyer, Abraham Lincoln, and fell under his thrall. He participated in Free Soil activities and the founding of the Republican Party there and back in Otsego County, and was elected to Congress in 1860, when Lincoln won the presidency.
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According to Matthews, who packed the Village Board meeting room, Arnold was Lincoln’s “eyes and ears” on Capitol Hill, and introduced legislation that abolished slavery in the District of Columbia and Florida territory during the Civil War. When the war neared an end, he introduced the measure that became the 13th Amendment, which freed the slaves.
Arnold owned three copies of the rare “History of Hartwick Seminary Academy,” but much of the memorabilia about Hartwick was destroyed in Great Fire of Chicago in 1871. Nonetheless, a copy survived, with Arnold’s notations in the margins, and a copy is in Matthews’ possession.