The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

50.
Speech by Edmund Kelly Delivered at Baptist Chapel, Dublin, Ireland 7 April 1853

Several black lecturers discovered that an Irish tour could rejuvenate a flagging British antislavery mission. Beginning with Charles Lenox Remond's 1841 visit, and including later appearances by Edmund Kelly and William G. Allen, blacks reached enthusiastic audiences in the Emerald Isle. Kelly, a fugitive slave, visited England in 1852 to raise money to complete the purchase of his own and his family's freedom. His failure to engage a trusted official to certify the integrity of his collection efforts caused criticism and led some reformers to question his credibility. This prompted Kelly to finish his fund-raising campaign in Ireland. In the spring of 1853, he gave a series of well-received lectures in Dublin on American slavery. On 7 April 1853, Kelly spoke before a large audience at Baptist Chapel on Lower Abbey Street, Dublin. Kelly's Irish tour raised the necessary funds to free himself and his family. FJD, 8, 13 April 1853.

The Rev. Mr. Kelly, 1 who presents a highly intellectual and gentlemanly appearance, in the course of his address, gave a short sketch of his own history. He stated that his father was an Irishman, but his mother being a slave all her children, according to the American law, became the property of the slaveholder who claimed her. When about sixteen years of age he was hired out to a schoolmaster, and being seized with a strong desire to learn, he induced some of the schoolboys by acts of kindness and small rewards to give him instruction, and so earnestly did he apply himself that at the end of twelve months he had learned to read and write. Having acquired a considerable amount of information he was engaged as a preacher by the Baptist body, of which he had become a member, and who paid, by way of compensation for his services, two pounds per month to the lady claiming him as her slave. After some time she became a bankrupt, and having received from her intimation of the fact, he proceeded to the northern states with the intention of remaining there until some arrangement could be effected with the creditors for his manumission. By his labours and strict economy he acquired nearly £500., which, together with 200. advanced to him as a loan, he paid as a ransom for his wife and children. Eight hundred dollars, or £167., was demanded as the price of his own freedom, and when he was preparing to make up this sum, the fugitive slave law came into operation, and he was compelled to fly to these countries. He has realised nearly the whole of his own purchase-money, which once made up, it is his intention to

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