The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

80. Sarah P. Remond and the Passport Issue Sarah P. Remond to Editor, Scottish Press 4 December 1859 Sarah P. Remond to George Mifflin Dallas 12 December 1859 Sarah P. Remond to Benjamin Moran 15 December 1859

During the autumn of 1859, two incidents involving Sarah P. Remond and her sister Caroline R. Putnam heightened Remond's awareness of the extent to which American racism reached beyond American shores. Like other black abolitionists, she publicized these incidents as an antislavery tactic, describing them in three December letters to the editors of the Edinburgh Scottish Press, the London Morning Star, and the London Inquirer. The letters were widely reprinted and commented on in the British press. The first incident involved discrimination against Caroline Putnam and her party on the Cunard liner Europa during their passage to Liverpool. The second incident began when the American legation in London refused to visa Remond's American passport for a visit to Paris. Although Remond presented Assistant Secretary of the Legation Benjamin Moran with a State Department passport dated 10 September 1858 and signed by Secretary of State Lewis Cass, Moran determined that the passport was fraudulent because the Dred Scott decision ( 1857) excluded blacks from citizenship. A series of letters between Remond and the legation followed, including a 14 December note that explained to Remond that she did not qualify for an American passport because she lacked the "indispensable qualification"--American citizenship. The note stated further that the American legation in London was simply complying with State Department guidelines dating from July 1856. Remond's efforts made the incident a cause célèbre in the London press. The London Morning Star printed particularly strong attacks on the American legation's treatment of Remond and the American policy of excluding blacks from citizenship. The controversy distressed American ambassador George Mifflin Dallas, who threatened to "go home" should the attacks continue. Remond later traveled to France without a visa. TG, 27 December 1859; ASRL, 1 August, 1 October 1860; Seventh Annual Report of the Leeds Anti-Slavery Association ( Leeds, England, 1860), 3-4; Sarah Agnes Wallace and Frances Elma Gillespie , eds., The Journal of Benjamin Moran, 1857-1865, 2 vols. ( Chicago, Ill., 1948-49), 1:608, 610, 613-14, 627-28, 637; BenjaminQuarles

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