Tag Archives: abolitionists
A Look Inside - Reminiscences of Levi Coffin

A Look Inside: Reminiscences of Levi Coffin

The full title of Coffin’s book is REMINISCENCES OF LEVI COFFIN, THE REPUTED PRESIDENT OF THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (BEING A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LABORS OF A LIFETIME IN BEHALF OF THE SLAVE, WITH THE STORIES OF NUMEROUS FUGITIVES, WHO GAINED THEIR FREEDOM THROUGH HIS INSTRUMENTALITY, AND MANY OTHER INCIDENTS.) It was published by the Western Tract Society in 1876.

Accessible Archives subscribers can find this fully searchable 712-page book in part VII of our Civil War collectionAbraham Lincoln Library Abolitionist Books.

Preface

I have been solicited for many years to write a history of my anti-slavery labors and underground railroad experiences, and although I had kept a diary the most of my life, it was without any prospect of ever putting it into book form. I had no desire to appear before the public as an author, having no claim to literary merit.

What I had done I believed was simply a Christian duty and not for the purpose of being seen of men, or for notoriety, which I have never sought. But I was continually urged by my friends to engage in the work, believing that it would be interesting to the rising generation; but being so fully occupied with other duties, I seemed to find no time that I could devote to this work, so that it was put off from year to year. I also often received letters from different parts of the country, desiring me to write the history of my life and labors in the anti-slavery cause, reminding me that the most of my co-laborers had passed away, and that I must soon follow, and that these stirring anti-slavery times in which I lived and labored were a part of the history of our country, which should not be lost.

But still, I deferred it until now, in the seventy-eighth year of my age. And although I feel the infirmities of that period of life fast gathering around me, I have gathered up my diaries, and other documents that had been preserved, and have written a book. In my own plain, simple style, I have endeavored to tell the stories without any exaggeration. Errors no doubt will appear, which I trust the indulgent reader will pardon, in consideration of my advanced age and feebleness. It is here proper also to acknowledge the valuable services of a kind friend, for aid received in preparing these pages for the press. I regret that I have been obliged to leave out many interesting stories and thrilling incidents, on account of swelling the size and cost of the book beyond what was agreed upon with the publishers.

Among the stories omitted is the account of the long imprisonment and sufferings of Calvin Fairbank, of Massachusetts, in the Kentucky penitentiary, for aiding fugitives, and of Richard Dillingham, of Ohio, who suffered and died in the penitentiary at Nashville, Tennessee, for a similar offense.

Part VII of our Civil War collection, Abraham Lincoln Library Abolitionist Books: Compiled by the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Library in Springfield, Illinois this unique collection brings together a disparate group of abolitionist era reference materials.
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Sentiments

Sentiments of Abolitionists (1832)

This piece on the positions held by abolitionists first appeared in the Hudson Observer & Telegraph and was reprinted to a national audience in William Lloyd Garrison’s newspaper, The Liberator, on December 1, 1832.

Garrison was a journalistic crusader who advocated the immediate emancipation of all slaves and gained a national reputation for being one of the most radical of American abolitionists. The Liberator denounced the Compromise of 1850, condemned the Kansas-Nebraska Act, damned the Dred Scott decision and hailed John Brown’s raid as “God’s method of dealing retribution upon the head of the tyrant.”

The slaveholders in the South demanded the end of the incendiary paper and the state of Georgia offered a $5,000 reward for Garrison’s capture. The Liberator was a mighty force from the beginning and became the most influential newspaper in the antebellum antislavery crusade.

After the end of the Civil War in December 1865, Garrison published his last issue of The Liberator, announcing “my vocation as an abolitionist is ended.”

Sentiments of Abolitionists

Abolitionism utters none of that foolishness which its opponents put in its mouth. It does not talk about ‘turning loose,’ ‘intermarrying,’ and all that sort of stuff. It is no such thing that the slaves ask. If they were fond of whitening, they have enough of it now, in all conscience. (more…)


When slave ships reached the Americas, the slaves were off-loaded and sold in slave markets, like the one pictured here in Atlanta (1860s).

The Slave-Market (1830-1860)

This is an excerpt Chapter IX of THE AMERICAN NATION: A HISTORY VOLUME 16; SLAVERY AND ABOLITION 1831–1841, one of the titles in our newest Civil War Collection – Part VII: Abraham Lincoln Library Abolitionist Books.

Part VII of our Civil War collection, Abraham Lincoln Library Abolitionist Books: Compiled by the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Library in Springfield, Illinois this unique collection brings together a disparate group of abolitionist era reference materials.

CHAPTER IX: THE SLAVE-MARKET (1830–1860)

With very small exceptions the negro slave was absolutely subject to sale at such times, to such persons, and on such terms as pleased his master. The ownership was as absolute as that of a horse or a watch. Although prosperous masters commonly did not sell slaves, the threat of being “sent down the river” for bad conduct was often realized; and able-bodied slaves who began to lose their vigor and vitality were sometimes sold because no longer profitable as work-hands; or at the death of a master, especially if the estate went to several heirs, among whom the proceeds had to be divided. There was always an undercurrent of feeling that to part with one’s slaves was ignoble; hence the most frequent reason for selling was simply that the master was obliged to realize, either to pay for something that he wanted to buy, or because he was in debt.

Was it true, as charged by the abolitionists, that slaves were bred in the border states for no other purpose than to sell them? Probably the truth was expressed by the Mississippian who said:

“A man might not raise a nigger with a well-considered plan to sell him eighteen years after he was born; he might never sell a nigger, but for all that, it was the readiness with which he could command a thousand dollars for every likely boy he had, if he should ever need it, that made him stay here and be bothered with taking care of a gang of niggers who barely earned enough to enable his family to live decently.”

In many cases slaves passed simply from vendor to purchaser like fancy stock, but the usual way was to attract buyers by advertisements. Within two weeks there appeared in the columns of sixty-four southern newspapers advertisements for the sale of forty-one hundred negroes, besides thirty lots to be sold at auction, as, for example:

PRIVATE SALES. Excellent Cook. Will be sold at private sale, a Woman, about 22 years of age, an excellent cook, (meat and pastry) Plain Washer, etc. She is sound and healthy and can make herself generally useful.

The slave-traders had no social reward for this useful service; a traveller in a steamer noticed “that the planters on board … shunned all intercourse with this dealer, as if they regarded his business as scarcely respectable.”

However despised, the business was profitable. The private sales involved no public exhibition of the merchandise, and in many cases showed some regard to the preference of the slaves. The public sales brought out the worst side of the whole system. The north was shocked by such grouping of human and brute merchandise as:

SHERIFF’S SALE. I will sell at Fairfield Court House, 2 Negroes, 2 Horses and I Jennet, I pair of Cart Wheels, I Bedstead, I Riding Saddle. Sheriff’s Office, Nov. 19, 1852.

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C is for Cotton

Lewis C. Gunn’s 1838 Address to Abolitionists

We are not about to tell you of the existence of slavery in our “land of the free,” or to inform you that nearly three millions of your countrymen are the victims of systematic and legalized robbery and oppression. This you know full well, and the knowledge has awakened your strong sympathy with the sufferers, and your soul-deep abhorrence of the system which crushes them.

We mean not to prove that this system is condemned by every principle of justice, every precept of the Divine law, and every attribute of the Divine character, — or that no man can innocently sustain to his fellow man the relation it has established. You already believe this proposition, and build upon it, as a fundamental doctrine, the whole superstructure of your anti-slavery creed and plan of operations. It is not our purpose to convince you that the slave, as your brother man, has a right to your compassion and assistance. You acknowledge his claim, and profess to be his fast and faithful friends. But we would propose to you a question of weight and serious import. Having settled your principles, in the clear light of truth, by fair and thorough investigation, do you practically carry them out in your daily life and conduct? To one point we would direct your attention. Do you, into whose hands this address has fallen, faithfully abstain from using the products of the slave’s extorted and unpaid labor ? If not, having read thus far, do not immediately throw aside this address with an exclamation of contempt or indifference, but read it through with candor.

Before entering upon a discussion of the question, whether our use of the products of slave-labor does not involve us in the guilt of slave-holding, we ask your attention to the two following propositions, viz.: The love of money is the root of the evil of slavery — and the products of slave-labor are stolen goods.
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Practical illustration of the Fugitive Slave Law

Aryannah Pendleton: A Fugitive Slave Case

This article about Miss Pendleton’s case was published in the National Anti-Slavery Standard on October 15, 1840.

A trial which excited much interest, was held in this town on Thursday last, before Hon. Joseph Eaton, Judge of the County Court, for the purpose of recovering a colored girl, by the name of Aryannah Pendleton, claimed to be a fugitive slave belonging to a Mrs. Price, of Richmond, Virginia.

The girl, it seems, came to New-York with Mrs. Price, and although strictly guarded, found means, prompted by the love of Liberty, of escaping to Hartford, and from there to Hampton, where she has resided for about three years past, and until arrested at the instigation of Doctor Price, son of the above named Mrs. Price, on a writ of Habeas Corpus and brought before Judge Eaton for trial.

The residence of this girl, it appears from what information we can collect, was made known to Doctor Price, by a contemptible fellow named Fuller, formerly a resident of Hampton, but now of the South, to whom, it is said, Doctor Price is indebted, and that the girl was, if found a slave, to be sold to satisfy such demand.

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