Speech by John Anderson Delivered at Exeter Hall, London, England 2 July 1861
No one filled British antislavery lecture halls like a well-known fugitive slave. Escaped slave John Anderson became a celebrity in British and American antislavery circles during his extradition hearing in Canada West, which resulted from American charges that he killed a white man during his flight to freedom. A meeting welcoming Anderson to Britain was described as the largest and most enthusiastic antislavery audience ever gathered in London--probably more than six thousand persons attended. It was held on the evening of 2 July 1861 in Exeter Hall. Anderson shared the platform with Canadian fugitive Thomas M. Kinnard, black abolitionist William Craft, meeting chairman Harper Twelvetrees, and members of the London Emancipation Committee and the John Anderson Committee. A welcome resolution was adopted, and after preliminary speeches, Twelvetrees presented Anderson with a small bottle of English soil on which was inscribed "John Anderson's Certificate of Freedom." When Twelvetrees introduced the fugitive slave as "Citizen Anderson," the audience burst into several minutes of cheering. Anderson began his speech by referring to the enthusiasm generated by Twelvetrees's remarks. When he finished speaking, he sat down amid "deafening applause," and a collection was made on his behalf. Kinnard and Craft spoke later in the meeting. Anderson, Life of john Anderson, 24-123.
All honour to England. All honour to Her Majesty the Queen, 1 for my freedom. I 2 feel very backward, the disturbance has quite upset me, and I do not know that I can make my speech out. ("Go on"--Cheers and laughter.) My worthy friend has upset me so, that I don't know if I can get through. I feel very thankful for my escape, for I have been chased for a very long time, and have only got free about three weeks ago. I want to describe my narrow escape, but I don't know that I shall get through with it. I feel so disturbed by a great audience like this. I thank God I have at last broken the yoke. (Hear, hear.) I thought I had seven years ago, but I never did till now, and I have to thank God and Great Britain for it. So I give all credit to Great Britain, and if I get no further in my speech, you must not blame me, for it is very hard for me to get on at all, I can tell you. (Cheers and laughter.) I will describe my escape. I remember my master, a man named Burton, 3 selling me to a man named McDonald, with whom I stayed about a month and a half, and then asked if I could go and see my family. He said, "No." I left him then and went to
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Publication information: Book title: The Black Abolitionist Papers. Volume: 1. Contributors: C. Peter Ripley - Editor. Publisher: University of North Carolina Press. Place of publication: Chapel Hill, NC. Publication year: 1985. Page number: 494.