The September release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes diverse perspectives on America’s peculiar institution. Highlighted below are an Englishman’s assessment of American slavery and the abolition movement as well as a juxtaposition of the morality of slavery as described in the Bible against its practice in the American South. Also included is a speech by Ohio Representative Joshua Reed Giddings in which he opposes any compensation to the slave traders who claimed losses due to the Amistad mutiny.
A Brief Notice of American Slavery, and the Abolition Movement (1846)
By John Bishop Estlin
John Bishop Estlin of Bristol, England, was an ophthalmic surgeon and fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. His only daughter, Mary Anne Estlin, became a prominent British abolitionist and traveled to the United States where she met Susan B. Anthony and other activists. Estlin wrote this work to support the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society and in hopes of bringing “into view the leading features of American Slavery and the Abolition Movement, afford[ing] some information to those who have not previously paid attention to the subject.”
Describing the domestic slave trade within the U.S., which Estlin referred to as, “one of the most criminal and revolting departments of this nefarious institution,” he wrote:
This month’s release from the New-York Historical Society’s collection of American Pamphlets, 1820-1922, includes a sales pitch from an early American auto club which encourages prospective members to explore a country “almost as undiscovered as Africa,” an enthusiastic explanation of the moral and intellectual virtues of croquet, and colorful zoological descriptions of P.T. Barnum’s menagerie, complete with elegant illustrations.
Discover America (1910)
This pamphlet, produced by the Automobile Touring Club of America, is generously illustrated with photographs, beginning with the club’s four-story headquarters in New York City. The size and location of the building and the ambitious tenor of the text are testimony to how rapidly Americans were embracing the still new horseless carriages that were ushering in the age of the automobile.
Clearly, this publication was designed to promote the club by selling annual memberships and adding car insurance into the bargain. Annual dues are five dollars, and the insurance is promised to “save from $5 to $40 per year” meaning “you save at least as much as you pay in” and “you may even make a profit” which will mean that all of the expert advice on travel routes, road conditions, and accommodations along the way will cost the member nothing.
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America’s Historical Newspapers and World Newspaper Archive Register
Collections covered include Early American Newspapers, African American Newspapers, Hispanic American Newspapers, Ethnic American Newspapers, Caribbean Newspapers, 20th-Century American Newspapers, American Newspaper Archive and the World Newspaper Archive.
The July release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an English abolitionist’s perspective on the slave trade, a speech advocating for equal suffrage in post-Civil War America, and an incredible advertising circular for a book about Henry Morton Stanley’s adventures in Africa.
The History of Uncle Tom's Countrymen: with a Description of Their Sufferings in the Capture, the Voyage, and the Field (1853)
Although slavery had been abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833, Great Britain continued to import products produced by slave labor. Calling for an end to the importation of American cotton and the tacit support of slavery, the author writes:
The plea that we are compelled from necessity to purchase the fruits of the slave is feeble in the extreme. It is either from a willful negligence or postulated blindness on our parts, that we have so long allowed ourselves to become thus dependent, and we now wish to make a virtue of necessity; but of all evils under the sun, that of making vice commendable is the greatest. The Times of November the 25th, 1852, says—“Show me the man chiefly benefitted by this crime, and I will show you the greatest criminal.” If then the people of England reap the chief benefit, they are certainly the chief criminals.
The July release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society contains a review of the debate before the Virginia Legislature on the abolition of slavery, a defense of the Methodist Episcopal Church’s position on slavery, and an essay interpreting the liberal philosophy that inspired the U.S. Constitution through the lens of religion.
An Essay on Slavery (1849)
By Thomas Roderick Dew
Thomas Roderick Dew was an educator and writer who served as the 13th president of the College of William & Mary. In 1832, Dew published a review of the debate in the Virginia legislature on the merits and ramifications of the abolition of slavery following Nat Turner’s slave rebellion.
Dew favored the continuation of slavery, arguing that laws should not be changed in the aftermath of a crisis:
The first days of summer are a fine time to highlight pamphlets advertising the glories of two resort hotels and one city establishment. These three documents are from this month’s release of American Pamphlets, Series 1, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society. They are among many other pamphlets celebrating country rambles, local histories, and recreational pastimes.
Echoes from the Sea: Coleman House [by] Frank B. Conover (1901)
We begin our holiday tour at the ocean, specifically at Asbury Park, New Jersey, where “stands the Coleman House, the centre of coast life and gaiety.” Mr. Conover, the author, has the highest praise for this grand hotel and for “Mr. Frank B. Conover, whose management of the hotel has been most successful for the past three seasons.” His fulsome description of Asbury Park is a striking contrast to the contemporary condition of the resort. It has been undergoing significant revival but only after having fallen on hard times.
In 1901 Conover was able to write that “it is a refined resort, abounding in great natural beauty and numerous forms of enjoyment. It is not merely a seashore resort, but it is a city of the sea, comprising a beautiful blending of country, seashore and city life.”
The June release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes hard-to-find imprints arguing for and against slavery as well as a speech from the floor of the House of Representatives defending the First Amendment.
An Appeal to the People of the United States (1825)
By A Georgian
The author of this appeal writes of the wrongs committed by “the corrupt…in poisoning the public mind” against the South and reminds readers that “the union was formed in a spirit of compromise” that included the recognition of states’ rights. He continues,
The right of property in their slaves and the right of representation in three fifths of that portion of their population, was reserved to the slave states. They are rights, which without their consent can never be alienated. They were left in possession of these states, which without them, would never have become parties to the compact. When they are attempted under any pretence to be wrested from them, the compact falls to the ground. Interference in any shape tends to a violation of this compact: because every interference depreciates the value of the slave as property, weakens the power which master possesses over him, and finally destroys it; when once this is effected, not only the property, but the life of the owner and his family is sacrificed to the relentless fury of an ignorant and barbarous enemy.
The initial release of a major new enrichment to the Evans and Shaw-Shoemaker collections has just occurred. Rare items from the American Antiquarian Society, available for the first time in Readex digital editions of Early American Imprints, are highlighted below.
The Gosport Tragedy (1776)
The Gosport Tragedy, or The Perjured Ship Carpenter, is a murder ballad set to the tune of Peggy's Gone Over Sea. The folk song tells of a young woman lured by her lover into the forest where she is killed and buried in a shallow grave. In this version of the story the woman, Molly, is murdered by a ship’s carpenter, William, who had promised to marry her after she became pregnant. When William returns to sea, he is haunted by Molly’s ghost and confesses to the murder before going mad.
The April release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes an Englishman’s perspective on the slave trade, opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law from both sides of the Atlantic, and a speech before the House of Representatives urging the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.
Records of a Voyage to the Western Coast of Africa (1833) By Peter Leonard
In 1830, His Majesty’s frigate the Dryad set sail as part of a British “naval force employed on the African station for the suppression of the slave trade.” Peter Leonard, the author of this work, served as the ship’s surgeon and upon his return to England in 1832 wrote about his experiences. He aimed “to make known the horrors which attend the Slave Trade…[and] to expose some of the defects of the laws and treaties, having for their object the suppression of the disgraceful traffic in human beings…”
…that the aboriginal inhabitants of Africa continue to be forcibly dragged from their homes; and…sold as any other commodity might be, and lorded over by their miscalled Christian brethren of creation, because, forsooth, their physical and moral perception has not been furbished by the chicanery and cunning of artificial society, and because, in them, the “human face divine” happens to be of a darker shade, and their facial angle less accordant with our ideas of symmetry and fair proportion.
Readex has partnered with the Library Company of Philadelphia to create Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922, an online version of one of the world’s preeminent collections for African American studies. While in Philadelphia, members of the Readex team had the opportunity to visit the Library Company for a firsthand look at original documents found in this newly digitized collection. For a quick overview of Afro-Americana Imprints, see the video below:
Krystal Appiah, the Library Company’s Curator of African American History, was one of our hosts during this visit. As part of her daily work, she helps a diverse group of researchers find relevant materials in African American history, literature and related fields. With her deep understanding of the Afro-Americana Collection—an accumulation that began with Benjamin Franklin and steadily increased throughout the Library Company’s history—Appiah expertly navigates the stacks to locate just the right item.