Slavery was legal in the thirteen colonies before the Revolution, but antislavery sentiment grew after the war. The first article published in America that called for the abolition of the slave trade was written by Thomas Paine in 1775, and the first American abolition society was formed by Quakers in Philadelphia in 1775. The society ceased to meet during the war and the British occupation of Philadelphia and was reformed in 1784. Many more abolitionist societies were formed after the war, including A Society for the Abolition of Slavery in Hartford in 1791. Noah Webster of Hartford was a leading member, along with several Farmington residents: Thomas Seymour, Rufus Hawley, Aaron Austin, and the Rev. Allen Olcott.
As a result of the abolitionist movement, some states and regions began to pass legislation prohibiting slavery. The Northwest Territory abolished it in 1787 under the Northwest Ordinance, which stated: “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”