A Hand-Bill, Addressed to the Members of the Anti-Slavery Convention.
PEASE Joseph (1843.)
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PREFERRING FREE LABOUR OVER SLAVERY
Letterpress broadside measuring approx. 400 by 250mm. Printed docket on the verso, old folds, tear to top left corner where previously affixed, very good. [London], Steam-press of W.H. Cox, 17 June,
Like many abolitionists, Joseph Pease (1799-1872) was a Quaker. Here he writes during the Anti-Slavery convention that was held in London over seven days in June, 1843. It was a difficult time for the abolition movement, which had lost much of its appeal after the passing of the 1833 emancipation act. Nonetheless, slavery was still in place in the United States, Brazil, and much of the West Indies. (France did not abolish slavery until 1848.)
Many Quakers took it as a matter of course to boycott products of the enslaved labour economy, notably sugar and rum. While those goods were, perhaps, easy to avoid, cotton was another matter. As such, both Quakers and abolitionists turned to India as a reliable free-labour source. Indeed, the "debate at the convention of 1843 made it clear to more dogmatic abolitionists that many supporters of the earlier anti-slavery movement now followed Cobden in preferring free trade to the exclusion from Great Britain of slave-grown products" (Billington, 315).
Pease adopted the same position. In this broadside, he seeks to demonstrate his "common-sense view" by arguing for the economics of Indian coolie labour which - comparing figures provided by Mr Gladstone in the West Indies and Mr Symes in Bengal - cost less than a tenth of that in Demerara. He reinforces his argument by quoting James Cropper: "That if Slavery and the Slave Trade had been left to a competition with free labour, and we had neither made laws to abolish them, nor give or money for their support, both the one and the other, ere this, would have ceased to exist in the Slave Countries."
Clearly aware of the abolitionist movement's diminished appeal, Pease adopts a manic tone throughout and accuses attendees of "discussing the horrors of American Slavery" to no avail other than "making the simple declaration that you can do nothing!!!" He pushes further: "Do you want to hear what REALLY is the remedy for annihilating Slavery and the Slave Trade? Come to the Convention on second day (Monday) ... You will also hear a letter from our venerable friend, Thomas Clarkson."
Pease was the first Quaker to be elected the House of Commons. He was not only interested in the abolition of slavery, but as an active member of the Aboriginal Protection Society, also aware of suffering of Indians under the East India Company. With several societies competing for attention "in the 1830s and 1840s British abolitionists demonstrated the degree to which they understood imperial evils to be interconnected" (Laidlaw, 308).
Rare: OCLC locates copies at Columbia and Cornell.
Billington, L., "British Humanitarians and American Cotton, 1840-1860" in Journal of American Studies, Vol.11, No.3 (Dec., 1977), pp.313-334; Laidlaw, Z, "'Justice to India - Prosperity to England - Freedom to the Slave!' Humanitarian and Moral Reform Campaigns on India, Aborigines and American Slavery" in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series, Vol. 22, No.2 (April 2012), pp.299-324.
Stock Code: 231987