"A firm reliance on God will promote a disposition to enjoy his bounties and sweeten every occurrence of life.”



Arthur Tappan was a successful businessman who devoted his wealth and career to ending slavery. Despite having his property destroyed by pro-slavery mobs, Tappan continued to fight against slavery publicly. Tappan and his brother also funded missionary societies, theological seminaries, and colleges.  


In 1826, Tappan and his brother launched their own silk importing business and later in the 1840s, the first commercial credit-rating service. Tappan used the fortune he built in these businesses to oppose slavery later in his life.   


In 1833, Tappan co-founded the American Anti-Slavery Society with William Lloyd Garrison and also served as the organization’s first president. Tappan also started multiple abolitionist journals to speak out against slavery. In the 1840s, Tappan began a new organization called the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society and tried to end slavery through the political process. Tappan publicly opposed the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which required that all escaped slaves be captured and returned to their masters. Tappan also helped fund the Underground Railroad. 


A deeply religious man, Tappan was born into a devout Christian family. Tappan and his brother were devoted to God and evangelism. 


In a letter to his sister, Tappan wrote, “The numerous sources of enjoyment which encircle everyone, may be embittered, or made productive only of misery, by an unhappy temper, while a firm reliance on God will promote a disposition to enjoy his bounties and sweeten every occurrence of life.”


Tappan also stated in a letter to Reverend R.R. Gurley: “I would ask if it is not supposable, that Satan sometimes uses good men to promote his purposes? What else will account for the fact that so many of our best men are now ‘led captive at his will’ in the unrighteous prejudice against the colored man...shall eight or nine millions of ‘pale-faced’ human beings, arrogate to themselves the right to trample under foot their fellow-men, because the color of their skin is different, when, too, a vast majority of mankind is on the side of the colored man? I ask then if there is no reason to believe, that such a prejudice comes, not from God, ‘who made of one blood all the children of men,’ but from the source I have ascribed to it?”

Arthur Tappan School

Arthur Tappan School

Arthur Tappan School, Harlem Image: Jim.henderson, CC0

Arthur Tappan

Arthur Tappan

Portrait of Arthur Tappan from The Life of Arthur Tappan, by Lewis Tappan, New York, Hurd and Houghton, 1870.