The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview
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William G. Allen to Gerrit Smith 14 May 1859

A few black abolitionists, most notably William P. Powell, William and Ellen Craft, Sarah P. Remond, and William G. Allen, settled in Britain as expatriates. Powell, Remond, and the Crafts prospered in their new surroundings. Allen did not. After initial success in Ireland, Allen found that lecturing was not a "lucrative profession" there. Unlike the others, Allen never found a primary source of income outside the antislavery circuit; tutoring proved inadequate to meet his growing family's expenses and his wife's continuing illness. By 1859 Allen described his financial circumstances as a "desperate struggle with the wolves, who are trying to break in the door." On 14 May he wrote a letter to Gerrit Smith, which discussed his economic situation and commented on the subtle nature of British racism. Allen wanted funds to purchase a house in Dublin, but apparently nothing ever came of his request. Faced with mounting debts, the Allens soon moved to London, where they remained dependent upon friends. Blackett, "William G. Allen,"50-52; ASRL, 1 July 1863.

Leamington, Eng[land]
May 14, [18]59

Hon. Gerrit Smith
My Dear Mr. Smith

In the midst of a desperate struggle with the wolves, who are trying to break in at the door, I steal a few moments to write you these lines, in acknowledgement of your kind note, received a little more than a year ago. Grateful it is to us to know that our kind friends have not forgotten us, & sincerely do we cherish the hope that ere long we may see them all again.

We are also greatly obliged by the "Address" which you so kindly sent us. It is a noble document--full of great truths, & setting forth the subject of religion in the clearest and steadiest light in which we have ever seen it. 1 Would that all men would read it, & let its truths sink deep into their hearts, & carry them out in their lives. Then should we have a happier world. There would be no more war nor slavery then--no more caste nor pride. Such a document was well calculated to excite discussion, for men have not been accustomed to look at the subject which most concerns them in such an original and sensible manner. But you know whence is your reward & care for none of these things.

We have now three children, the last a sweet little girl, named Harriet Aurilla, for my wife's deceased mother and sister. Ere long we shall have


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