John S. Jacobs to Isaac Post 5 June 1861
The onset of the Civil War struck black abolitionist expatriates in various ways. William G. Allen and his wife were unwilling to leave Britain, but an excited William P. Powell gathered his family and sailed for New York to support the Union. John S. Jacobs was ambivalent. Jacobs had fled to California after passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, then to England, where he married an Englishwoman. Residing primarily in London, he occasionally attended abolitionist meetings. Jacobs's 5 June 1861 letter to antislavery friend and correspondent Isaac Post suggests the dilemma that the Civil War created for him. Jacobs returned to the United States during the war. Linda Brent, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, ed. L. Maria Child ( Boston, Mass., 1861; reprint, New York, N.Y., 1973), 194; Harriet Brent Jacobs to Amy Post, 1 March, 8, 20 December [n.d.], Post Papers, NRU [ 16:0692, 0698, 0715]; ASA, September 1861 [ 13:0722]; WAA, 19 April 1862.
London, [ England]
June 5th, 1861
My Dear Friend: 1
I hope you will not judge me by my long silence. Believe me, it does not characterize the language of my heart. I do not like much to deal with words, but with actions. You and your family have shown yourselves friends to me and mine, and not to me only, but to my oppressed brethren, for whose sake I hope our Father and our God will reward you all. You that have believed in the promise, and obeyed His word, are beginning to see the moving of His hand to execute judgment and bestow mercy. Those who have long sown chains and fetters will reap blood and carnage. Their troubles have begun; God only knows where they will end. The excitement in London is daily increasing, but the greater portion of the people seem to be ignorant of the character of the slaveholder and of the cause of the disturbed state of the Union, and still more so with regard to the best means of abolishing slavery. Yesterday I read the views of one man who believed it best to let the old slaves work out the freedom of their children, and when they have died off, then let the children be free, and there would be an end to the evil. This reminded me of the story of the poorhouse, which I will not repeat. Last night I heard our tried and true friend, George Thompson, who tried to convince the people of this country of the great mistake they had made in not encouraging the cultivation of cotton in their colonies, 2 and to explain the true cause of the slaveholders seceding from the Union. I am sorry to say, that