The concepts of freedom about which Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence originated from the pen of the Rev. John Wise of Ipswich: "The origin of civil power is the people...and when they are free, they may set up what species of government they please."
In 1765, Jenny Slew, a slave in Ipswich, successfully sued John Whipple Jr. for her freedom. In the mid-19th Century, divisions between ardent abolitionists, moderate anti-slavery people and those who avoided the discussion divided families, churches and the town of Ipswich.
Eunice Caldwell attended Ipswich Female Seminary from 1828 to 1829, where she began a lasting friendship with Mary Lyon. She married the Reverend John Phelps Cowles in 1838, and returned to Ipswich in 1844 to reopen the Seminary, which they ran until it closed in 1876.
Emma Jane Mitchell Safford was a descendant of Massasoit, Sachem of the Wampanoag. Her daughter, also Emma, tried to help her relatives regain land taken from them on the reservation.
In 1687, a warrant was issued for the arrest of several Ipswich men for being "seditiously inclined and disaffected to his Majesty's government." The 62-year-old Major Samuel Appleton scorned the appearance of submission and remained imprisoned in the cold Boston Jail through the winter.
Jenny Slew was born about 1719 as the child of a free white woman and a black slave. She lived her life as a free woman until 1762 when she was kidnapped and enslaved by John Whipple. Jenny Slew is believed to be the first person held as a slave to be granted freedom through trial by jury. In November of 1766 the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff and ordered Whipple to free Jenny Slew. She was awarded £4 in damages and £5 in costs.