Account of the Emancipation of the Slaves...in Jamaica

David BARCLAY

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Account of the Emancipation of the Slaves...in Jamaica
Account of the Emancipation of the Slaves...in Jamaica

"SLAVERY IS HOW WE GOT HERE, BUT IT TELLS YOU LITTLE OF WHO WE ARE AS A PEOPLE": IMPORTANT FIRST EDITION OF BARCLAY'S ACCOUNT OF THE EMANCIPATION OF THE SLAVES OF UNITY VALLEY PEN, IN JAMAICA, 1801

BARCLAY, David. An Account of the Emancipation of the Slaves of Unity Valley Pen, in Jamaica. London: William Phillips, 1801. Slim octavo, recent half calf, marbled boards; pp. (1-5), 6-20. $2800.

First edition of British Quaker David Barclay's Account, documenting his commitment to free a group of enslaved men, woman and children in Jamaica, arranging for their travel to Philadelphia where, as a friend of Franklin, Barclay had earlier worked "to prevent the approaching war with America" and was a longtime member of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery, handsomely bound.

British financiers David Barclay and his brother John, co-founders of Barclay's Bank, were members of an influential Quaker family. David Barclay, a "good friend of Benjamin Franklin… was a keen and committed advocate for abolition of the slave trade and called for the gradual end of slavery in the Caribbean. Nonetheless, his bank had close links to the West India trade and financed plantation mortgages, a connection that created a moral dilemma for Barclay… Around 1785 John and David Barclay took possession in lieu of debts of a 2000 acre cattle pen named Unity Valley in St Ann, Jamaica." As noted by Barclay in this Account, "Having been a Slave Owner… I determined to try the experiment of liberating my Slaves." He initially relied on his Jamaica attorney but after problems with the plan and the death of his brother, David Barclay, in 1787, "took full possession of the estate and determined to emancipate the remaining 32 enslaved people" (Center for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery).

In 1795 Barclay directed his agent to transport the group to Philadelphia where, "through his friendship with Franklin," he had worked "to prevent the approaching war with America. Barclay knew that there existed in Philadelphia the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery… In fact in 1790 he became a member of the Society, and in 1791 fell in with the suggestion of his agent, that bringing the freed people to Philadelphia and putting them into the care of this Society could be the way to go forward." After freeing the sick or infirm who would remain in Jamaica, Barclay arranged for a ship to carry the others to Philadelphia where they were given refuge at the African Methodist Meeting House. "The Committee of the Society, keeping careful records, began to make arrangements for the welfare, housing, training and employment of the new arrivals, the delivery to them of their papers proving their emancipation, and the implementation of undertakings that the children would be put into school-learning and taught mechanic trades" (Barclay and Stokes, Story of David Barclay).

In this important Account Barclay notes the key influence of William Wilberforce and names a work by Anthony Benezet. He particularly expresses his hope that "the time may arrive when Britons will be more generally convinced, that the holding of our fellow creatures in slavery, is inconsistent with every principle of religious and moral duty." Featured, along with extensive correspondence, are excerpts from minutes of the Philadelphia Committee of the Society for Improving the Condition of Free Blacks, a "copy of the instrument of Manumission" and a list of the names and ages of those who arrived in Philadelphia. Included is a boy named October, renamed Robert, who became active in the Philadelphia Underground Railroad. His descendants include soldiers who fought in both World Wars and a great-great-grandson who would recall the words of his "Barclay grandmother who would remind me as a boy that, 'Slavery is how we got here, but it tells you little of who we are as a people'" (Barclays: From the Archives). Goldsmith's II:18333. Not in Blockson.

Text about fine, handsome binding fine.

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