"I HAVE NO CONFIDENCE IN SLAVE-HOLDERS… I KNOW THEIR GAME TOO WELL": FIRST EDITION OF LYDIA MARIA CHILD'S IMPORTANT 1853 BIOGRAPHY OF PIONEERING ABOLITIONIST ISAAC HOPPER, SCARCE IN ORIGINAL CLOTH
CHILD, L[ydia]. Maria. Isaac T. Hopper: A True Life. Boston: John P. Jewett & Co., 1853. Octavo, original gilt- and blind-stamped brown cloth. $2600.
First edition of abolitionist Lydia Maria Child's biography of Quaker abolitionist Isaac Hopper, a seminal figure in the Underground Railroad whose dramatic "Tales of Oppression," which form much of the book, vividly document "his ingenuity in outwitting slave-catchers."
Quaker abolitionist Isaac Hopper, born in 1771, transformed the antislavery movement by making "assistance to fugitive slaves a quintessential form of abolitionist activism" (Sinha, Slave's Cause, 119). By the early 1800s, as a prominent member of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society (PAS), and supervisor "for an African American school founded by Anthony Benezet… Hopper had won a reputation as a friend of escaped slaves by his ingenuity in outwitting slave-catchers and by serving as escapees' unofficial advocate in legal proceedings" (ANB). Abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, who authored this posthumous biography, was editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard when she hired him in June 1840, and that October he "penned the first of 79 narratives in a bi-weekly column called Tales of Oppression." As Child notes in her preface, these accounts, minimally edited by her, form "a prominent portion of the book." Hopper's "tales" offer a vivid record of his street smarts, and highlight his belief in relying on "the organizational strength of the Black community and its harboring network" in the Underground Railroad (Meadows, "Kidnapping Blacks in Philadelphia").
"Not above using a bit of subterfuge for a good cause, he once negotiated a low price for a slave whose master mistakenly believed was dying. Hopper also helped organize a Free Produce Society to encourage abstinence from goods produced by slave labor" (ANB). "Nearly all of Hopper's stories can be verified from contemporary newspaper accounts and court records." His work with PAS and Child helped hundreds to "buy their freedom and have their freedom recognized in the eyes of the law" (Sinha, 119-20). Hopper also worked with David Ruggles and his New York Committee of Vigilance, which helped Frederick Douglass in his escape from slavery. Child, who was at his bedside when he died in 1852, records his last words to her herein: "Tell them I love them all" (emphasis in original). First edition, first printing: first state sheets (bulk: 1-1/4 inches). No statement of edition or printings on the copyright page. Containing engraved frontispiece with printed signature facsimile below image; engraved full-page portrait. Blockson 3131. Work, 307. Sabin 12719. BAL3174. Trace of bookplate removal.
Interior quite fresh, minor restorations to spine ends of original cloth. An excellent copy.