Charles Sumner


‘The Market of Human Flesh’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The October release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a piece of travel literature describing America and its peculiar institution, a pamphlet bemoaning the ills of Reconstruction, and speeches and writings on the political aspects of slavery by abolitionist and senator Charles Sumner.


Stuart Title Page.jpg

A Tour in the United States of America (1784)

By John Ferdinand Smyth Stuart, Esq.

John Ferdinand Smyth Stuart (1745-1814) studied medicine at Edinburgh University, emigrated to America, and began his practice in Virginia. When the American Revolution began, Stuart, a loyalist, abandoned his home and served in the British Army. During the war he was captured and held prisoner, spending eighteen months in irons. Misfortune followed Stuart. After returning to England after the war, his pension for service was suspended. Moving to the West Indies, he was shipwrecked three times. Returning one more time to England, he learned his pension claims were too old to be heard. In 1814 he was knocked down and killed by a carriage.

Writing of his sojourn in America, Stuart recounts the country’s natural beauty but the charm of his prose is diminished quickly when he writes:

‘The Market of Human Flesh’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘Frowning upon every privilege of birth’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Included in the January 2017 release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia are several works that provide insight into the conditions under which many African Americans lived in Antebellum America.


The Farmer’s Accountant and Instructions for Overseers (1828)

By Pleasant Suit

Pleasant Suit, the author of this bookkeeping guide for farmers, notes that he has “been in the habit of keeping Books upwards of thirty years, part of the time in the largest importing and exporting Mercantile house in Virginia.”  He illustrates his method of accounting for African Americans among other “stock accounts” with charts like this:

Suit JanValuation.jpg

Entries in the book’s “F.A.Q.” section include:

Suit FAQ 3.JPG

Q. Why do you debit Negro account to Stock account?

A. Because it is a component part of it, and it enables you at all times to know how many you have, by comparing the debtor’s side with the credit: If any are sold you credit the account by what you receive, and if one or more dies you credit the account by Profit and Loss for the valuation; and if your women should have children, you debit this amount to Profit and Loss for the number and value of them.

Q. Why do you debit Horse account to Stock account?

‘Frowning upon every privilege of birth’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘Progressive and Arrogant Pretensions’: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

The November release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes responses by three Southern senators to anti-slavery resolutions enacted in Vermont, a call for placing temperance and abolitionism above political party, and a speech by Charles Sumner on the “origin, necessity and permanence” of the Republican Party.


Remarks of Messrs. Clemens, Butler, and Jefferson Davis, on the Vermont Resolutions Relating to Slavery (1850)

ClemensButlerDavis.jpg

On January 10, 1850, Senators Jeremiah Clemens, Andrew Butler, and Jefferson Davis delivered speeches before the U.S. Senate responding to several anti-slavery resolutions passed by the Vermont General Assembly and presented to the U.S. Senate. The first resolution found:

That slavery is a crime against humanity, and a sore evil in the body politic, that was excused in the framers of the Federal Constitution as a crime entailed upon the country by their predecessors and tolerated solely as a thing of inexorable necessity.

The General Assembly further resolved to petition Vermont’s U.S. Senators to resist the extension of slavery to the territories. Senator Clemens began his remarks by explaining why he had not attempted to block a motion to print the resolutions:

‘Progressive and Arrogant Pretensions’: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

Back to top