The active part which Thomas Shipley took in Anti-slavery movements, did not diminish his interest in the prosperity and usefulness of the old Pennsylvania Society. He was a steady attendant on its meetings, and exercised his wonted care on all subjects connected with its interests.
A short time previous to his death, his services were acknowledged by his fellow-members, by his election to the office of president.
The incessant and fatiguing labors in which he was engaged, had sensibly affected the vigor of a constitution naturally delicate, and rendered him peculiarly liable to the inroads of disease. He was seized in the autumn of 1836, with an attack of intermittent fever, which confined him to the house for ten or twelve days, and very much reduced his strength; while recovering from this attack, he experienced an accession of disease which terminated his life in less than twenty-four hours. But a few hours before his death, he inquired of his physicians as to the probable issue of his case; when informed of his critical condition, he received the intelligence with composure, and immediately requested Dr. Atlee, who was by his side, to take down some directions in regard to his affairs, on paper. In a few minutes after this, he quietly lapsed into the sleep of death, in the morning, on the 17th of Ninth month, 1836.
His last words were, “I die at peace with all mankind, and hope that my trespasses may be as freely forgiven, as I forgive those who have trespassed against me.”
To all who knew him well, of whatever class in the community, the tidings of this unexpected event brought a personal sorrow. It was felt that a man of rare probity and virtue had gone to his reward. But to the colored people the intelligence of his death was at once startling and confounding. Their whole community was bowed down in public lamentation, for their warmest and most steadfast friend was gone.
They repaired in large numbers to the house of their benefactor to obtain a last glance at his lifeless body. Parents brought their little ones to the house of mourning, and as they gazed upon the features of the departed, now inanimate in death, they taught their infant minds the impressive lesson, that before them were the mortal remains of one who had devoted his energies to the disenthralment of their race, and whose memory they should ever cherish with gratitude and reverence. When the day arrived for committing his remains to the grave the evidence of deep and pervading sorrow among these wronged and outraged people was strikingly apparent.
Thousands, whose serious deportment and dejected countenances evinced that they were fully sensible of their loss, collected in the vicinity of his dwelling, anxious to testify their respect for his memory. Theirs was not the gaze of the indifferent crowd, which clusters around the abodes of fashion and splendor, to witness the pomp and circumstance attendant on the interment of the haughty or the rich. It was a solemn gathering, brought together by the impulse of feeling, to mingle their tears and lamentations at the grave of one whom they had loved and revered as a protector and a friend.