The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

6.
John Murray and William Smeal to James McCune Smith 15 June 1837

James McCune Smith's service on the Glasgow Emancipation Society's Committee of Management placed him in close contact with society cosecretaries John Murray and William Smeal. They, in turn, respected Smith and recognized that his presence in Scottish antislavery circles demonstrated black intellect and ability and refuted commonly held racial stereotypes. After completing his medical studies at Glasgow University, Smith prepared to sail for New York on 4 May 1837, but the captain of the brig Canonicus refused to allow him to board. Murray responded with a strong letter of protest to the captain and joined Smeal in leading an effort to insure that Smith would not be further prevented from sailing because of his color. Before he finally sailed, the two men wrote him a 15 June letter expressing their feelings about his pending departure. The following evening, Smith's friends and fellow students honored him with a farewell dinner party at the Tontine Hotel in Glasgow to express their contempt for American racial prejudice as most recently demonstrated by the Canonicus incident. Minutes of the Glasgow Emancipation Society, 29 February, 1, 15 March 1836, Cash Book of the Glasgow Emancipation Society, 20 February 1834, UKGM; CA, 9 September 1837.

Glasgow, [ Scotland]

June 15, 1837

Letter from the Committee of the Glasgow Emancipation Society, to James M Cune Smith Esq. M.D.

Dear Friend & Brother;

When you are about to leave our shores, and return to your native country, we cannot deny ourselves the gratification of tendering you a formal testimony of our esteem--in addition to all the common evidences of affection and respect for you, which it has been our privilege to give, during our intercourse for several years past.

When you first appeared among us, the circumstance was in a high degree calculated to excite our sympathy on your behalf, that a young man should be found seeking, in the Institutions of Scotland, those intellectual accomplishments which he was refused an opportunity of acquiring in those of his native land, on account of his complexion not suiting the taste of a prevailing party of his countrymen. Our first feelings towards you, Dear Sir, we acknowlege were chiefly feelings of compassion. But, after a brief acquaintance, you became the object of sentiments

-68-

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