J. Sella Martin to George L. Ruffin 10 October 1861
The coming of the Civil War altered the relationship between black Americans and the federal government. Many black abolitionists curtailed their antislavery critique and sought emancipation by allying with the Union against the Confederacy. Some, including black Boston minister J. Sella Martin, took this crusade to Britain. Armed with letters of introduction from New England abolitionists and clergymen, Martin made the first of four trips to Britain in August 1861. He hoped to influence British public opinion about the war and to raise funds to purchase his sister Caroline and her children out of slavery in Columbus, Georgia. Although bothered by chronic illness, he succeeded. English abolitionists appointed John Curwen of Plaistow as secretary of the Caroline Martin Fund, which collected £500. Martin's 10 October letter to black jurist George L. Ruffin, a member of his Boston congregation, was written near the beginning of his English labors; he appeared at several meetings before this date, including a 1 October meeting of the London Emancipation Committee. J. Sella Martin to Gerrit Smith, 2 July 1861, Gerrit Smith Papers, NSYU [ 13:0612]; Lib, 24 October 1862; Blassingame, Slave Testimony, 735; Frederick William Chesson Diary, 1 October 1861, UkMJr.
14 Oxford St[reet]
London, [ England]
Oct[ober] 10, 1861
My Dear friend 1
I suppose you think that you have been strangly neglected as I promised to write to you but illness must excuse my silence as it has prevented both the disposition and the command of time in the matter of friendly correspondence. I now find myself however a great deal better than I have been for years and I take this opportunity of making it known to one about whose interest and solicitude for me I have no doubt.
I am just about to commence my labors in England which from present [appearances promices] to be of great importance to me personally and to the cause generally. Not only for the present do things look favorable but for the future as well so far as respects the influence to be created and left by my canvassing Great Britain which I am about to do. There is the utmost interest possible to be entertained felt in the American war and a man of any [ability] what ever can command both respectful and inthusiastic attention in his speeches. I have been prevented from going to work by two obstacles namely coming here at least two months