The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

62.
Samuel Ringgold Ward to Editor, British Banner 12 April 1854

Winning the struggle for British popular opinion on the slavery issue was a critical element of professional black abolitionist missions to Britain. Blacks carefully monitored what the British public read in newspapers about the institution. They were as attentive to mistaken information about slavery as they were to its defense by proslavery apologists. Samuel Ringgold Ward's 12 April 1854 letter to the editor of the British Banner responded to a report in the 5 April Banner of a parliamentary debate in the House of Commons. During this debate on British naval efforts to limit the trade in African slaves into Spanish Cuba, Richard Cobden, M.P., made several observations about the slave trade in America. Ward sought to correct what he described as Cobden's "misstatement" on the matter. Ward's letter was published in the 21 June issue of the Banner. ASRL, 1 August 1854.

April 12, 1854

SIR:

I clip the above from the British Banner of the 5th inst. I beg to call attention to the unfortunate misstatement of Richard Cobden, 1 Esq., M.R. I do so, lest the remarks of Mr. Cobden might mislead some of your readers who may not be acquainted with the facts of the case.

It is not at all true that there is "no Slave-trade in the United States." I know not whether Mr. Cobden referred to foreign or domestic trade in human beings. He may have meant that though the Americans trade in the persons of their own citizens and their own children, they do not buy slaves from abroad. But even this is not true. They trade both in their own children, and their poor relatives, and in the persons of native Africans.

Mr. Cobden may have been misled by the fact that the American Government have declared the foreign Slave-trade to be piracy, 2 and that a Treaty exists between that Government and ours for the suppression of the Slave-trade. 3 But, though that trade be declared piracy, vessels have been fitted out with all the horrible implements for that trade at Boston, New York, and Baltimore for the past forty years.

The Treaty sent by our Government to that of the United States contained a provision to the effect that, should the subjects of either Government be found engaged in the Slave-trade, "on the coast of Africa, the West Indies, or America," such offenders should be punished, &c. The American Senate struck out the words, "or America;" thus exempting their coast from the provisions of the Treaty, and making that coast a

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