Speech by Alexander Crummell Delivered at Freemasons' Hall, London, England 19 May 1851
The shared belief that men were perfectible and society destined to progress animated Anglo-American reformers. Many black antislavery professionals, like Alexander Crummell, shared these assumptions and used them to frame their criticism of slavery and racial prejudice. Crummell's remarks at a soirée, sponsored by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society on 19 May 1851, at Freemasons' Hall, London, resonated the doctrine of progress. The proceedings, which began at six o'clock with refreshments and ended four hours later, were chaired by BFASS treasurer George W. Alexander and commanded a "large and respectable assemblage." Black abolitionists Henry Highland Garnet and Josiah Henson also spoke, and J. W. C. Pennington attended. ASRL, 2 June 1851; NC, 28 May 1851.
Rev. Alexander Crummell, coloured episcopal clergyman of New York, on rising, said, I am thankful for the existence of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. I am thankful for its existence, because this Society is opposed to slavery, and is pledged to continuous and unremitting efforts for its final extinction in every quarter of the globe. I am especially thankful for its existence at this particular period; for never were its exertions and its influences more needed than at the present time. There appears just now a general rising of the surges of slavery and oppression throughout the world, presaging wrath and destruction to the cherished liberties of mankind. Any one who has followed the movements of the crowned heads of Europe, during the last two or three years, cannot but have observed the "royal conspiracy" to narrow the limits of liberty, confine the boundaries of freedom, and to deprive their subjects, as far and as much as possible, of their rights. 1 If you look across the Atlantic to another continent, you will see a striking manifestation of the same spirit of tyranny in the recent passing of the Fugitive Slave Law by the United States of America. Thus you will see that some of the great powers of the world seem disposed, at one and the same time, to hinder the progress of man, and to retard the advancement of the cause of freedom. Of these powers two stand out before the world with distinguished prominence--Russia and the United States; and, Sir, I verily believe, the liberties of mankind have as much, if not more, to fear from the democracy of the United States, than from the autocracy of Russia. The acts of the former of these powers are brought before us this evening, and to them I shall call your attention for a few moments; and, as