The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

4. Speeches by Moses Roper Delivered at Baptist Chapel, Devonshire Square, 26 May 1836 and at Finsbury Chapel, London, England 30 May 1836

British reform audiences welcomed firsthand information about American slavery. Escaped slave Moses Roper arrived in Liverpool on 29 November 1835 with that firsthand knowledge. During the next decade, the growing presence of fugitive slaves such as Roper, Moses Grandy, and Frederick Douglass increased British demand for black abolitionist lecturers, who filled lecture halls unlike any other group. Roper spoke to an antislavery meeting, held on Thursday, 26 May 1836, at Thomas Price's chapel in Devonshire Square, London. He offered additional comments four days later at nearby Finsbury Chapel, before a 30 May gathering called to resolve a debate arising in the earlier session. The debate involved George Thompson, the featured speaker at both meetings, who censured abolitionist clergymen Rev. Francis A. Cox and Dr. James Hoby for failing to speak out against slavery during their attendance at the General Baptist Convention held in Richmond, Virginia, the previous spring. At the second session, Thompson backers in the audience objected when Roper was asked to speak. They regarded him as Cox's protégé, because the clergyman had helped sponsor Roper's English education. Moses Roper, A Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper from American Slavery ( London, 1837), 99; PtL, 1 June 1836.

Mr. M. ROPER1 addressed the meeting, and stated a number of facts which had come under his own knowledge, demonstrative of the horrors and cruelties of American slavery. One case which he mentioned, was that of a slave who occasionally preached to his fellow-bondsmen. His master threatened that if he ever preached on the Sabbath again, he would give him 500 lashes on the Monday morning. He disobeyed the order, however, and preached, unknown to his master. He became alarmed, ran away from Georgia, and crossed the river into South Carolina, where he took refuge in a barn belonging to a Mr. Garrison. Mrs. Garrison saw him in the barn, and informed her husband of it. Mr. Garrison got his rifle and shot at him. The law required that they should call upon a slave to stop three times before they fired at him; Mr. Garrison called, but he did not stop. The ball missed him, and Mr. Garrison then struck him with the gun and knocked him down. The slave wrested it from him, and struck him (Mr. G.) with it. The slave was taken up for it;

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