James Gillespie Birney
February 4, 1792
Danville, Virginia (now Kentucky), U.S.
|Died||November 18, 1857 (aged 65)|
Perth Amboy, New Jersey, U.S.
|Political party||Democratic-Republican (before 1825)|
Princeton University (BA)
James Gillespie Birney (February 4, 1792 – November 18, 1857) was an abolitionist, politician, and attorney born in Danville, Kentucky. He published an abolitionist weekly publication titled The Philanthropist and twice served as the presidential nominee for the anti-slavery Liberty Party.
Birney pursued a legal career in Danville after graduating from the College of New Jersey and studying under Alexander J. Dallas. He volunteered for the campaigns of Henry Clay, served on the town council, and became a Freemason. In 1816, he won election to the Kentucky House of Representatives as a member of the Democratic-Republican Party. In 1818, he established a cotton plantation in Madison County, Alabama, and he won election to the Alabama House of Representatives the following year. Birney eventually sold the plantation and established a legal practice in Huntsville, Alabama, becoming one of the most successful lawyers in the region.
During the 1820s, Birney became increasingly troubled by the issue of slavery. He became a member of the American Colonization Society, which advocated for the migration of African Americans to the continent of Africa. After serving in various roles for the organization, Birney began calling for the immediate abolition of slavery. In 1835, he moved to Cincinnati, founding The Philanthropist the following year. He also became a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, but resigned from that group due to his opposition to equal rights for women. Birney accepted the Liberty Party's nomination in 1840 and received 0.3% of the popular vote. He accepted the Liberty Party nomination again in 1844 and received 2.3% of the popular vote, finishing behind James K. Polk and Clay. Birney moved to Michigan in 1841 and helped establish the town of Bay City, Michigan.