James Watkins to Editor, Aris's Birmingham Gazette 18 May 1854
James Watkins was one of the many fugitive slaves driven from America by passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Watkins arrived in Britain during 1851 and solicited money to purchase his family by lecturing on the "horrors of Slavery." During 1854 Watkins's family joined him in England. His willingness to collect funds according to preferred British practice was an important element of his success. Watkins allowed Joseph Crook, M.P. for Bolton, and Henry Van Wart, an American merchant living at Bath, to act as his sponsors. The two men handled Watkins's financial arrangements, thereby insuring the integrity of the process and boosting the confidence of potential contributors. Watkins's 18 May 1854 letter thanked British donors for helping to free his family. J. Rennie to Louis Alexis Chamerovzow, 14 July 1854, British Empire MSS, UkOxU-Rh; Blassingame, Slave Testimony, xxxv.
90 Bath-row [ Birmingham?, England] May 18, 1854
Will you permit me 2 to inform my numerous friends of Birmingham and the surrounding district, that through their great kindness for which I sincerely thank them, I have been enabled to purchase the freedom of three of my brothers and sisters, by remittance kindly forwarded through Joseph Crookes, 3 Esq. M.P. for Bolton, free of charge besides 538 dollars sent through an American merchant of this town.
A further piece of good fortune for which I have to express my thanks is, that they have enabled me to send for my wife and family (two girls and one boy); and though, when she arrived at New York, the packet refused to accommodate her on account of her color, the American merchant just alluded to kindly and nobly interfered on my behalf, and secured her and my children a very comfortable passage by the packet City of Manchester, instead of the unfortunate City of Glasgow, by which they were to have come. I shall ever feel my obligation to him, and to all those christian friends whose generous sympathy has enabled me to receive my dear wife and little ones in this blessed land of freedom, where none can invade our peaceful and happy home.
I am sure my friends will be glad to hear that they are now under my protection, and that shortly I intend to commence some little business in this town, by which I hope to secure a honest livelihood for myself and