Patriarchal Institution

L. Maria CHILD   |   Lydia Maria CHILD

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CHILD, L. Maria. Patriarchal Institution, As Described by Members of Its Own Family. New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1860. Slim octavo, original self-wrappers, original stitching; pp. 55.

First edition of Child's timely 1860 assault on slavery and its defenders, issued the month before Lincoln's election, an extraordinary assemblage of quotes from fugitive slave ads, southern "Black" codes and newspapers, and key selections from the works of proslavery leaders, skillfully upending claims that "slaves were better off" than northern white workers.

To abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, Lydia Maria Child was "the first woman in the republic." In a career that spanned nearly 50 years, she "addressed most of the crucial issues of the 19th century: the genocide of indigenous Americans, slavery, anti-Black racism, the oppression of women, women's suffrage, the treatment of the poor, child labor and the condition of the cities" (Pratt, Rebuilding Babylon, 94). Soon after Harpers Ferry, Child put aside a planned biography of John Brown when she learned that journalist James Redpath had already undertaken one. Yet she refused to be silent, and soon became embroiled in a correspondence with Governor Henry Wise of Virginia that would spark fury. She defended Brown by declaring that if she believed "men should fight for their freedom, the enslaved were 'best entitled to that right.'" With that, "Wise accused her of inciting murder and… made their correspondence public. Brown, Child replied, was no criminal but a 'martyr to righteous principles.'" Determined "to promote the Republican cause" in the 1860 election, Child "radically revised" an 1836 work that included a tentative early direction of this work. In Patriarchal Institution, extensively re-conceived and separately issued with this edition for the first time, Child attacks slavery "head on" as she offers a path for northern white workers: one aimed against southern claims that slaves "were better off than themselves… Child advanced her entire argument through quotations from… southerners themselves… extracts from southern law codes, fugitive slave advertisements, articles in southern newspapers, and the speeches and writings of proslavery apologists" (Karcher, First Woman in the Republic, 431-32). Child withholds her own voice until the final paragraph, where she directly addresses northern workers, stating: "Slavery and Freedom are antagonistic… which do you choose?"

Child had intended Patriarchal Institution to be part of the 1860 political campaign, "perhaps with an eye toward having it distributed at the May nominating convention." But Republican party leaders found it "too radical" and refused, causing publication to be "delayed until October," when it issued by the American Anti-Slavery Society… Child did the lion's share of the distribution work; personally addressing and mailing copies" to prominent northerners. To her biographer, Child "devoted her life and writings to transforming the U.S. into a multiracial egalitarian republic… through her eyes, we can recapture both the America she struggled to change and the America she envisioned in its place" (Karcher, 432-33, xv-xvi). Sabin 12724. Work, 299. Dumond, 38. Contemporary owner signature above title page dated 1861; small bit of marginalia.

Text very fresh, trace of edge-wear, faint soiling to original wrappers. A near-fine copy.

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