Theodore Dwight Weld was born on November 23, 1803, in Hampton, Connecticut. He was the fourth of five children born to the Reverend Ludovicus Weld and his wife, Elizabeth Clark Weld. Both of his parents came from promi-
"The Nation is its citizens, and the Nation's right and duty to protect and defend its citizens, all of them, is absolute and paramount."
Theodore Weld. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress.)
nent families that had lived in New England for over one hundred years. The Weld house was usually noisy and chaotic during Theodore's childhood. In addition to five active children, it often contained a number of his father's theology students. As a result, Theodore sometimes resorted to practical jokes or wild pranks to get attention.
But the Weld household was also a deeply religious one. The children were expected to live by strict rules of moral conduct. When they made mistakes, they sometimes received harsh punishment. For example, Theodore once cut the casing on a hunk of cheese, causing it to spoil. When his parents asked about it, he lied. In response, they confined him to his bedroom alone for a week and gave him only bread and water. As a boy, Weld respected his minister father but did not feel close to him. He tried to win his father's love by reading the Bible and studying to become a minister.
In 1819, Weld went to the prestigious Andover Academy to further his religious training. But within a year he became ill and suffered an emotional breakdown. One of his teachers suggested that traveling in a warmer climate might help. Since Weld did not have money for a vacation, he took a job as a traveling lecturer on mnemonics—the science of memory. As he visited towns throughout the South, he developed his public speaking and presentation skills. He was also exposed to slavery for the first time.
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