The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

91.
Speech by Henry Highland Garnet Delivered at the Music Hall, Birmingham, England 15 October 1861

During his second trip to Britain, Henry Highland Garnet sought British support for his African Civilization Society. In gathering that support, he was adept at linking black American emigrationist hopes with British commercial cotton interests. On the evening of 15 October 1861, Garnet attended a meeting in Birmingham's Music Hall, which was sponsored by the British African Aid Society. The convocation was called to consider the effects of a reduced cotton supply on Manchester and Birmingham industry, to examine the best way to avoid the reduction, and to discuss how the American Civil War afforded an opportunity to end the slave trade by establishing a cotton industry in Africa. A series of five resolutions was debated. Garnet offered an impromptu fourth resolution, which stated "that the introduction of Christian coloured families from Canada into Africa is imminently calculated to advance the influence of Christianity and civilization in that country." His remarks were supported by black abolitionist-emigrationist Robert Campbell, who had stopped in England on his way to settle his family in Lagos. ASRL, 1 November 1861; WAA, 16 November 1861.

The Rev. H. H. Garnet, who was received with protracted applause, moved the fourth resolution. He said he was somewhat embarrassed in arising to address this large and intelligent audience; and, in addition, he was more than ordinarily impressed with a sense of the responsibility that was resting upon him; for he had not only to speak his own sentiments, but also those of thousands of his brethren in America, whose representative he was. (Applause.) But there was one consideration which afforded him some relief. He had learned that it was the pleasure of Englishmen of noble birth and distinguished position to bestow great kindness and condescension upon even the humble of other nations, when they appeared before them with a worthy and important object. (Hear, hear.) He hailed this new movement as most hopeful and encouraging for the future of his fatherland. If it had originated in merely selfish considerations (he meant those suggested alone by trade or commerce), he should have reason to doubt the good that would be finally done to Africa. But this was not the case. It was true there was some self-interest in this movement, as there was, more or less, in everything with which man had to do; but he believed that, in this stupendous work, it was modified and controlled by the spirit of Christianity and universal freedom. (Applause.) With such principles and purposes, the most glorious

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