The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

23.
Speech by William Wells Brown Delivered at the Concert Rooms, Store Street, London, England 27 September 1849

William Wells Brown was formally welcomed to Britain by a 27 September 1849 meeting held at the Concert Rooms on Store Street in London. The gathering, attended by many religious and reform leaders, was punctuated by a series of exchanges between George Thompson and George Jones, a member of the audience. Upon interrupting Thompson's introduction of Brown, Jones was asked to make his comments from the speaker's platform. He objected to Thompson's statement that "in the Eastern States of America the prejudice against color was quite as galling . . . as slavery itself." Thompson refused "to retract or modify" his comments. The two men clashed again when Jones attempted to blame Britain for planting slavery in North America and implied that southern slavery would die a natural death unless continued abolitionist criticism strengthened the resolve of slaveholders to keep the institution. Both Thompson and Jones appealed to Brown for mediation. As a former slave and professional abolitionist, Brown could speak with authority and sophistication on the points under debate. Brown supported Thompson. Lib, 19, 26 October, 2 November 1849.

Sir, I wish to make a remark or two in seconding the resolution which is now before the meeting. I am really glad that this meeting has produced this discussion, for I think it will all do good; in fact, I know it will, for the cause of truth. Reference has been made to slavery having been carried to America by the sanction of this country. 1 Now, that is an argument generally used in America by slaveholders themselves. (Hear, hear.) Go to the United States; talk to slaveholders about the disgrace of slavery being found in a professedly Christian republic, and they will immediately reply, " England imposed it upon us; Great Britain was the cause of it, for she established slavery in America, and we are only reaping the fruits of her act." Now, gentlemen, I would reply to our friend here, 2 as I have replied to Americans again and again--If you have followed England in the bad example of the institution of slavery, now follow her in the good example of the abolition of slavery. 3 (Cheers.) Some remarks were also made by that gentleman respecting the Americans having abolished the slave trade. 4 It is true that they did pass a law, but not in 1808, that the slave trade should be abolished: they passed a

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