On September 30, 1852, a so-called National Liberty Convention was held at Syracuse's Wesleyan Methodist Church. Following the disruptions of the 1848 U.S. presidential election, 1852 marked a turbulent period for abolition as a cause for national political action. Indeed, the primary issue at this convention was whether a remnant of the National Liberty Party should bother nominating its own candidates or endorse the candidates of the Free Democracy, apparently a New York State manifestation of the Free Soil movement.
Among those present were Gerrit Smith, former slave and abolition leader Jermain Loguen, and the health reformer, quack physician, and future dress reformer James Caleb Jackson. Those three and six others (including two women, Antoinette Brown and Sophronia Woodruff) were named to the Convention's Business Committee.
Jackson gave a speech condemning the Fugitive Slave Law.
After controversy over which of several opposing factions should be allowed to vote—which would have the effect of determining whether or not the Convention would nominate its own presidential candidates—the delegates favoring New Democracy were overruled. William Goodell was nominated for president and S. M. Piper of Virginia was nominated for vice president.
The national convention adjourned. There followed a state convention that nominated candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, canal commissioner, and state prison inspector.
A series of abolition speeches concluded the event.
The Wesleyan Methodist Church occupied the corner of East Onondaga Street and East Jefferson Street. Built in 1845, the building still stands today. Like other Wesleyan Chapels in the region, the church was a center for reformist activism. The church was a major Underground Railroad site. During historic preservation in the late 1990s, several faces carved in clay were discovered in the church basement. They are thought to have been carved by escaping slaves seeking their freedom as they journeyed north. Several of the faces were removed and are now on exhibit at the Onondaga Historical Association museum. The structure now houses a popular Mexican restaurant.
Thanks to Sarah Kozma for research assistance.