The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

53.
William Wells Brown to William Lloyd Garrison 17 May 1853

Whatever their own partisan predilections, most professional black abolitionists visiting Britain avoided striking either a Garrisonian or non-Garrisonian pose for their British antislavery hosts. They did not want the politics of the American antislavery movement to define their British mission. Even after divisions in the American movement began to be felt in Britain, black abolitionists tended to sidestep the debate. William Wells Brown's 17 May 1853 letter to William Lloyd Garrison, describing the annual meeting of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society held the day before in Exeter Hall, London, illustrates the point. Brown's chatty letter skirts a discussion of the meeting's central concern--rapprochement between the BFASS and their British Garrisonian counterparts. The meeting, called by BFASS secretary Louis Alexis Chamerovzow during a revival of Garrisonian antislavery sentiment in Britain, attempted to unite the country's competing abolitionist factions under the umbrella of the national society. Chamerovzow invited British Garrisonians to the meeting, but the landmark gathering did not effect the unity he sought. His overtures were repeatedly rebuffed prior to the meeting by choleric American Garrisonian Parker Pillsbury. When Chamerovzow, apparently without malice, seated Garrisonians at the back of Exeter Hall, Pillsbury used the opportunity to destroy any hopes of cooperation. Rice, Scots Abolitionists, 162-73.

22 Cecil Street
Strand

London, [ England]
May 17, 1853

DEAR MR. GARRISON:

I forward to you, by this day's mail, the papers containing accounts of the great meeting held in Exeter Hall last night. No meeting during this anniversary has caused so much talk and excitement as this gathering. No time could possibly have been more appropriate for such a meeting than the present. Uncle Tom's Cabin has come down upon the dark abodes of slavery like a morning's sunlight, unfolding to view its enormities in a manner which has fastened all eyes upon the "peculiar institution," and awakening sympathy in hearts that never before felt for the slave. Had Exeter Hall been capable of holding fifty thousand instead of five thousand, it would no doubt have been filled to its utmost capacity. For more than a week before the meeting came off, the tickets were all disposed of, and it was understood that hundreds were applying every

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