Historical Marker #844 in Greensburg notes the home of the Reverend David Rice, an early emancipationist in Kentucky.
In 1792, Kentucky entered the Union as the fifteenth state. As a former county of Virginia, the Bluegrass State inherited many of Virginia’s customs, traditions, and laws, including slavery. However, not all of those who assembled in Danville to write Kentucky's first constitution believed that human bondage was good for the new state. One delegate who argued for gradual emancipation was the Reverend Rice.
Rice, a Presbyterian minister, was born in Hanover County, Virginia, and migrated to Kentucky in 1783. He settled in Danville, where he helped start churches and taught at Transylvania Seminary.
As a delegate to Kentucky’s 1792 constitutional convention, Rice proposed that slavery was "inconsistent with justice and good policy." Much of the minister’s argument was based, as one might expect, on religious principles. He also warned that slavery bred resentment, which could, in turn, produce anarchy. Rice wrote, "Can it be in our interest or the interest of our posterity, to nourish within our own bowels such an injured, inveterate foe; a foe, with whom we must be in a state of eternal war? What havock would a handful of savages [Indians], in conjunction with this domestic enemy [slaves] make in our country! Especially at a period when the main body of the inhabitants were softened by luxury and ease, and quite unfitted by the hardships and dangers of war."
Rice, like later emancipationists such as Cassius Marcellus Clay, warned that slavery was also harmful to whites. He explained that it "produces idleness, and idleness is the muse of vice." Rice also contended that if slavery ended, Kentucky would reap the benefit of increased immigration and greater economic productivity.
Rice’s efforts at a measure promoting gradual emancipation failed. Therefore, slavery was written into Kentucky’s constitution as Article IX, which reads, "The legislature shall have no power to pass laws for the emancipation of slaves without the consent of their owners, or without paying their owners, previous to such emancipation, a full equivalent in money."
Although always in the minority and marginalized throughout the antebellum era, Kentucky continued to produce individuals who-despite their different means-argued for the end of slavery.
Rice died at age 83 and was buried in Danville.