The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

21. William Wells Brown to William Allen 2 September 1849

After the close of the Second General Peace Congress, William Wells Brown attended two receptions for the delegates. The first, given by French Foreign Minister Alexis de Tocqueville and Madame de Tocqueville in the Hotel des Affairs Étrangères on 25 August, honored the various diplomatic legations then in Paris. The second, a breakfast gathering at Versailles on 27 August, was given by British delegates to honor "their American brethren." Richard Cobden, M.P., presided; some six hundred people attended, including black abolitionists Alexander Crummell and J. W. C. Pennington. The breakfast soon turned into a rump session of the congress and was addressed by a number of speakers, including the Reverend William Allen, an American delegate from Massachusetts. In his brief remarks, Allen claimed that the American slave states, not the federal government, were solely responsible for slavery's existence. Brown, like other black abolitionist colleagues in similar situations, used the incident to generate antislavery publicity, correct misinformation, and spread the antislavery gospel in the British press. His 2 September 1849 rebuttal of Allen appeared in the London Standard of Freedom. Farrison, William Wells Brown, 152-53.

22, Cecil-street
Strand
London, [ England]
Sept[ember] 2, 1849

REV. WM. ALLEN, D. D. 1
NORTHAMPTON, [ MASSACHUSETTS], UNITED STATES

SIR:

I should not address you through a public journal had you not taken advantage of the few moments allowed you to speak at the breakfast given on the 27th ult., at Versailles, by the English to the American delegates, 2 to apologize for American slavery. I would have replied to you at the time, had I had an opportunity of doing so; but as I could not do so then, this seems to be the only way in which I can reach the ear of those who heard you on that occasion; and as your speech has been published in many of the London papers, I am the more anxious that some reply should be made. In your speech you said, "Slavery was alluded to in the Peace Congress; and I am sorry that many of our English brethren in Europe do not understand that our general government in America has nothing to do with slavery, and has no power or authority over it. The responsibility of slavery belongs to the slave States only. We in the free States have abolished that institution."

-161-

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