Autograph Manuscript Signed [AMS] : Appeal to the Friends of Abolition in England (1833)
“Dear Friends —Two millions of slaves have already perished in my guilty country; but I plead not for the dead—they are at rest—but for the two millions who are now living. Living, did I say? O! it is not life—it is something more than death. But I bring them before you, in their rags and fetters, weeping in the bitterness of despair, gory with blood, and sinking under the weight of their sorrows. There, are husbands who have had to stand unresistingly, and see their wives scourged before their eyes!—There, are the wives whose husbands were but yesterday driven off in chains to a far distant State!—There, are parents whose children have been ruthlessly torn from their arms by the slave speculator!—There, are the children who are sobbing for the loss of their parents!—There, are brothers, bewailing an eternal separation!—There, are sisters, loathing their own polluted bodies!”
-Appeal to the Friends of Abolition in England
UNIQUE, AND IMPORTANT GARRISON ANTI-SLAVERY MANUSCRIPT. Demonstrates his poignant and steadfast commitment to the anti-slavery cause and the origin of his collaboration with British abolitionists. Precedes the critical National Anti-Slavery Convention held in Philadelphia in December 1833. APPARENTLY UNPUBLISHED.
William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), a hero of the abolitionist movement, uncompromising American reformer, and journalist, is considered one of the most significant anti-slavery voices of the nineteenth century. In 1829, at the age of 24, early into his career as a journalist at local newspapers in Massachusetts, he gave his first anti-slavery speech supporting gradual emancipation and the American Colonization Society’s program of repatriating free Blacks to Africa. However, after collaborating with Black Americans in Boston and Baltimore he quickly turned against gradualism. When Garrison learned that colonization organizations did not intend to return free Blacks to their family’s original African homelands, he concluded that colonization was more anti-black than anti-slavery. Through speaking engagements and his anti-slavery newspaper the Liberator, which circulated widely both in England and the United States, Garrison forcefully advocated for immediate emancipation and political and social equality for all African-Americans. In the first issue of his newspaper, dated January 1, 1831, he declared “I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation…I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—AND I WILL BE HEARD.” (Thomas) The Liberator is now considered the most influential anti-slavery periodical of the antebellum period.
Garrison argued that immediate emancipation (referred to at the time as “immediatism”) was a religious imperative, and as a pacifist with Quaker roots, he stressed non-violence. He argued that enslavement was an abomination in God’s eyes and that enslavers could be convinced that slave holding was a sin—a notion consistent with evangelical ideas of renewed morals and societal salvation espoused during the second Great Awakening. (Blight) Garrison’s campaign to end slavery immediately, and his belief that freed Africans could assimilate into American society earned him a reputation as the most radical among abolitionists. He turned on the influential American Colonization Society, an organization he initially supported, arguing that its approach was a racist delusion designed by slaveholders to protect their economic interests. In the Appeal, he explains “This Society wears the mask of philanthropy, and has succeeded in deceiving many benevolent people.” While Garrison’s ideas were not popular in all circles, this appeal helped him gain a following and led to him founding the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 as a biracial, gender-inclusive organizations dedicated to “immediatism” and complete social equality. (Stewart)
While Great Britain and the U.S. outlawed the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1807 and 1808 respectively, ownership of enslaved Africans remained legal. In May 1833, Garrison sailed for Britain where he met and befriended many abolitionist members of British parliament, including Thomas Clarkson, William Wilberforce, Thomas Buxton and George Thompson, a lecturer for the London Anti-Slavery Society who emphasized America’s role in the perpetuation of slavery. Collectively, they worked toward the abolition of slavery through lecture tours and by introducing legislation that British parliament passed as the Slavery Abolition Act in August of 1833. Recognizing Thompson's oratorical talent, Garrison invited him to travel to the United States to join the American anti-slavery effort.
Written in London on August 10, 1833 Garrison uses his Appeal to describe the horrific conditions of enslaved Africans and to persuade Thompson to help in the emancipation fight in the United States:
There are now in the United States, writhing in bondage, 2,200,000 slaves!…imprisonment, fines, stripes, and even death are threatened if they should attempt to learn the alphabet, or get instruction in a Sabbath School! Tens of thousands are annually sold at public auction on speculation, or to discharge the debts of their masters. Females are often put on scales, and sold like meat by the pound, or exchanged for horses and sheep...Babes are taken from the breasts of their mothers—parents from children—brothers from sisters—never to meet again “till the heavens be no more.” In addition to all these crimes and horrors, it is calculated that as many new victims (the offspring of slave parents) are added every year by birth to the immense number already in bondage, as are taken from Africa by the slave traders of all nations!
After condemning the brutality of slavery in this document, Garrison urged British anti-slavery societies to help their counterparts in America by paying for lecturer George Thompson to travel to America. Thompson departed for America in late 1833, around the same time that Garrison and more than 50 delegates from ten states had the first meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia. This organization was designed as a national body to promote the creation of abolitionist societies across the North to fight for immediate emancipation. Garrison believed that George Thompson would strengthen the foundations of these new organizations and demonstrate the burgeoning international alliance of abolitionists.
Thompson arrived in America in early 1834 and was a powerful voice for emancipation. He served as an anti-slavery lecturer, inspired many to join the abolitionist cause, and was credited with the formation of over 150 anti-slavery societies around the U.S. Thompson’s anti-slavery mission and his sarcastic oratorical style caused a major commotion in both the pro-slavery and abolitionist American press. His visit lasted from 1834-1835 and during that time he was denounced by President Jackson, his life was frequently in danger, and he was forced to flee a mob-ridden Boston at the end of 1835. Despite the risks, Thompson returned to America in 1850, following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, and again from 1864-67, working alongside Garrison and President Abraham Lincoln. (Morgan)
Garrison’s 1833 Appeal demonstrates his fiery rhetoric, his unyielding belief in equality, and marks the beginning of his crucial partnership with Thompson. Together, Thompson and Garrison galvanized the worldwide abolitionist movement, taking unprecedented steps to free enslaved peoples around the world. They were bound together by their cause and became life-long friends, each man naming a child after the other. Despite threats, violence, and setbacks they fought tirelessly for freedom and equality alongside a multi-racial coalition of other like-minded men and women. After the Civil War ended in 1865 and the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, Garrison closed the Liberator and retired from the American Anti-Slavery Society, declaring, “it is enough for me that every yoke is broken, and every bondman set free.” (Thomas) Garrison and Thompson saw their dreams come to fruition and celebrated with the knowledge that they played an integral role in the emancipation of enslaved Africans.
As far as we can tell, this powerful manuscript is unpublished.
Autograph manuscript (in Garrison's hand), signed by Garrison at the end as "Representative of the New England Anti-Slavery Society." Seven pages written on four large (10x 16 in) sheets, folded to make a booklet, with stitches still at folds, but sheets separable. London. August 10, 1833 (dated at top). Some light staining, usual folds. Excellent condition with text entirely legible.
Full text of Garrison’s handwritten appeal:
An Appeal to the Friends of Abolition in England.
London, Aug. 10, 1833.
There are now in the United States, writhing in bondage, 2,200,000 slaves! The laws which are enacted for their subjection are even more atrocious than any to be found in the West Indian Code. — Imprisonment, fines, stripes, and even death are threatened if they should attempt to learn the alphabet, or get instruction in a Sabbath School! Tens of thousands are annually sold at public auction on speculation, or to discharge the debts of their masters. Females are often put on scales, and sold like meat by the pound, or exchanged for horses and sheep. The domestic slave trade is also carried on to a horrible extent. In the District of Columbia, (the capital of the U.S. and seat of the national Government,) there are many public and private prisons, in which the victims of the infamous slave speculators are incarcerated, until a number sufficient for a drive is purchased in the adjoining States, (Mary-land and Virginia,) and they are then driven in chains or transported in vessels tot he extreme southern sections of the country. From these two states alone, it is believed that at least 15,000 slaves are sold every year for exportation to Louisiana, Georgia, and etc. Babes are taken from the breasts of their mothers—parents from children—brothers from sisters—never to meet again “till the heavens be no more.” In addition to all these crimes and horrors, it is calculated that as many new victims (the offspring of slave parents) are added every year by birth to the immense number already in bondage, as are taken from Africa by the slave traders of all nations! - There are also more than 300,000 free people of color, in the United States, who are subjected to great contempt, ignominy and wretchedness.
But the picture is not yet finished.— Although the United States boasts of liberty and equality, and proclaims themselves to be an asylum for the oppressed of all nations; yet, so malignant is prejudice, so strong is selfishness, and so insatiate is cruelty in the breasts of the people to-wards the free colored and slave population, that they who plead for their immediate emancipation from the thraldom which crushes them to the earth, and for their improvement and elevation in the United States, are persecuted and calumniated, and large rewards are offered for their destruction!
Yet more. A combination, styling it-self the American Colonization Society, was formed principally by slaveholders at Washington city in 1816 and has been vigorously maintained up to the present moment, whose grand object is the banishment of the free people of color from the country, in order “that these mirrors may not reflect the light of freedom into the dark bosoms of the slaves,” and consequently, that the slaves may be held more securely in bondage. It proposes also to remain, “the excess of increase of the slave population, beyond the occassions of profitable employment,” so that the slave system may suffer no deterioration in value by a redundance in the market. This Society wears the mask of philanthropy, and has succeeded in deceiving many benevolent people in this country and in the United States. The corruption of its principles, and the pernicious tendency of its measures, have now received the public reprobation of the leading abolitionists of Great Britain, among them being the sainted Wilberforce.
Let me assure the friends of emancipation in this country, for their encouragement, that all is not dark or hopeless in the United States. Thousands have caught a portion of the zeal—the abolitionist spirit is abroad in our land with great power, and is traversing its length and breadth, conquering and to conquer—aboli-tion societies are formed, and multiplying in every free section of our territory, on the principle of immediate and unconditional emancipation—four periodicals have been established, expressly to maintain the cause of the affiliated and the right of the poor, and a multitude of our political and religious periodicals are now freely discussing the question of negro slavery—great exertions are making for the repeal of all those laws which now disfranchise our free colored population, and schools are multiplying for their instruction. The American Colonization Society is falling, like Lucifer, never to rise again, And, on the termination of this year, I trust a National Anti-Slavery Society will be formed in the United States.
Dear Friends —Two millions of slaves have already perished in my guilty country; but I plead not for the dead—they are at rest—but for the two millions who are now living. Living, did I say? O! it is not life—it is something more than death. But I bring them before you, in their rags and fetters, weeping in the bitterness of despair, gory with blood, and sinking under the weight of their sorrows. There, are husbands who have had to stand unresistingly, and see their wives scourged before their eyes!—There, are the wives whose husbands were but yesterday driven off in chains to a far distant State!—There, are parents whose children have been ruthlessly torn from their arms by the slave speculator!—There, are the children who are sobbing for the loss of their parents!—There, are brothers, bewailing an eternal separation!—There, are sisters, loathing their own polluted bodies!
Yet, more—I place at your feet the two hundred infants, who are daily born in the United States, and doomed for life to the horrors of bondage. I place at your feet a hundred thousand babes, who, in the return of another year, will have been brought forth to meet the same doom. See—they smile in meeting your tender glance—they stretch forth their little arms towards you, as if they know you meant to succor and protect them from a horrid destiny! And their unhappy mothers prostrate on their knees before you, venturing to touch the hem of your garments, and imploring you, by all the love you bear to your own offspring, and by all that makes life desirable, to use your exertions for their delivery—once from pollution and bondage. “Save—oh, save our babes!” they wildly cry—”save them, if you can-not save us—and the light of heaven shall illumine your path, and the blessings of many ready to per-ish be showered upon your heads!”
Yes—the appeal will be felt in every part of this country!— It is impossible that the British people, proudly standing, as they now are, upon the neck of Colonial Slavery—it is impossible for them to consider their work at the end, while there remains a human being held as chattel under the whole heavens, To them justly belongs the lofty panegyric of an American poet—
“They have wreathed their names with glory
Their spirit inspires them yet,
Their deeds shall be bright in story,
With a light that shall never set.”
And now, beloved friends, you will naturally inquire—”How can we most efficiently advance the cause of emancipation in the United States?” In sincerity of soul, I answer—”By sending over to us, at your expense, George Thompson, Esq. your eloquent, devoted and talented anti-slavery Lecturer.” Let him be unremittingly and exclusively employed among us, as our agent, in rousing up the nation to a sense of its danger, guilt and duty—in form-ing anti-slavery societies—and in overthrowing the great Babel of oppression. So persuasive is his eloquence, so powerful his appeals, and so uncompro-mising his principles, that I have no hesitation in declaring as my belief, that, by one year’s effort, (under Providence,) he will be instrumental in break-ing many thousand fetters, by the impetus which he will give the abolition cause.
I have said, send and support him at your expense. My reasons for so doing are—first, our abolition party, though increasing in numbers, are few and poor, and greatly overburdened by their past efforts and sacrifices. The wealth and influence of the nation are arrayed against us. We need, there-fore, your pecuniary assistance, as well as your sympathy. Secondly—it will redound to your credit, if, in sparing us such a noble advocate as Mr. Thomp-son, you can say, as well as enable him to say, to us in the United States—”He who is sent to you seeks not to obtain your money, but your hearts: he will not burden you to the amount of the farthing. All he asks for himself is, a friendly reception, and a patient and candid hearing.”
“How much will it be necessary to raise annu-ally for the support of Mr. Thompson’s family, and the discharge of his traveling expenses, etc. in the United States?”
Certainly, a sum not exceeding £400 sterling. This might easily be raised by committees in various towns and cities, each committee pledging itself to obtain a certain amount. Let the burden be gen-erally borne, and it will scarcely be felt.
Friends of the bleeding slave! Surely you will make this generous sacrifice, promising, as it does, to produce, like good seed sown in good ground, at least a hundred fold.
That the Lord may incline your hearts to adopt these suggestions, and may abundantly reward you for all your labors of love, is the prayer of
Your friend and brother,
Wm. Lloyd Garrison
Representative of the New England Anti-Slavery Society
David Blight. “David Blight on William Lloyd Garrison.” Africans in America. PBS. 1998.
William Lloyd Garrison. Appeal to the Friends of Abolition in England. London. 10 August 1833.
William Lloyd Garrison. "Thoughts on African colonization, or, An impartial exhibition of the doctrines, principles and purposes of the American Colonization Society : together with the resolutions, addresses and remonstrances of the free people of color." Special Collections, University of Delaware Library. 1832.
“William Lloyd Garrison papers - 1805-1879.” Massachusetts Historical Society.
S.J. Morgan. “Thompson, George Donisthorpe.” American National Biography. 2004.
James Brewer Stewart. “Garrison, William Lloyd.” American National Biography. 2000.
John L. Thomas. “William Lloyd Garrison.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 20 May 2022.
Price: $14,500 .