Speech by William G. Allen Delivered at the Stock Exchange, Leeds, England 29 November 1853
Black abolitionist lecturers spoke authoritatively about the close connection between slavery and northern racial prejudice. Free black William G. Allen was particularly careful to suggest this relationship for British listeners. In November 1852 the newly founded Leeds Anti-Slavery Association engaged Allen to offer a series of three lectures on American slavery and racial prejudice at the Stock Exchange in Leeds. The first lecture was presented on 29 November 1853, with Leeds's mayor John Wilson serving as chairman. Leeds Anti-Slavery Association president Wilson Armistead and vice-president Joseph Lupton appeared on the platform. Prior to Allen's lecture, the mayor read a handbill that had been displayed in an American post office offering a $100-dollar reward for the recovery of a black slave named Peter, noting the inhumane treatment of slaves that it intimated. Allen then lectured on "American Slavery and the Prejudice against Colour." LI, 26 November, 3 December 1853; LM, 3 December 1853; ASRL, 1 January 1854.
Professor ALLEN (an intelligent gentleman of but slight colour) then came forward, and was received with applause. He said he certainly felt very much obliged by the kind reception; it showed to him their kind feeling, which, however, he must accept more as a tribute to the cause he stood there to advocate. He would (for the sake of this cause) he was an orator; but, unfortunately, he was not a speech maker by profession, having lived in the main the quiet life of a teacher. He had not come there to deal out indiscriminate abuse of America and her institutions, for he could not forget that it was there he first looked up to the blue heavens above, and at the green earth beneath him; that there still reposed the ashes of a beloved mother, of a father, and of sisters. 1 No, endeared to his heart were the blue hills and the shores of his fatherland. (Hear, hear, and applause.) But while he should not deal in indiscriminate abuse, neither should he indulge in fulsome flattery. American slavery was one of those great evils which require to be attacked by all the efforts of mind and heart, and the man who threw a lance at it should see that it is charged with fire as well as with truth. He acknowledged the greatness of America in energy, intellect, and activity. Look at her; a nation born in a day! Look at her giving culture and education to her people, and here there was something sublime, something great. But if he acknowledged her to be great, he condemned her the more. (Hear, hear.) He had heard it said that America would abolish slavery if she could.