“AN ACCURATE AND MORALLY DRIVEN ACCOUNT OF THE REALITY OF SLAVERY”: SCARCE FIRST EDITION OF HODGSON’S REMARKS DURING A JOURNEY THROUGH NORTH AMERICA, 1823, IN CONTEMPORARY CALF
(SLAVERY) HODGSON, Adam. Remarks during a Journey through North America in the Years 1819, 1820, and 1821, in A Series of Letters… Also, A Letter to M. Jean Baptiste Say, On the Comparative Expense of Free and Slave Labour. New-York: Samuel Whiting, 1823. Octavo, contemporary full brown tree calf, red morocco spine label. $750.
First edition of Hodgson’s account of travels across nearly 7000 miles of America, describing his encounters with Indian tribes, a meeting with Jefferson at Monticello, and his “unbiased observations” (Field) on the brutality of slavery, featuring the first publication of his Letter to M. Jean-Baptiste Say, enlisting Adam Smith, David Hume, Franklin and others to dispute Say’s view of slavery as more profitable than free labor.
From 1819 to 1821 Hodgson, a leading Liverpool merchant and future director of the Bank of Liverpool, traveled across nearly 7000 miles of North America "to gather political and economic intelligence and to establish personal contacts in the transatlantic mercantile world" (Hayes, 88). Hodgson was especially interested in the role of slavery in America's economy less than 15 years after passage of the Slave Trade Act that ended the British slave trade. This volume assembles letters detailing his travels, including "his 'Journey among the Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Cherokees'" (Field 704) and a visit with Jefferson at Monticello, where Hodgson recalls Jefferson "expressed his sentiments very freely on the present situation of England… and concluded with an earnest hope that… the people might be soothed into better humor with one another." This important work, however, remains best known for its "unbiased observations" (Howes H560) and its chilling accounts of slavery. Hodgson's "goal was clearly to provide his readers with an accurate and morally driven account of the reality of slavery in the United States in hopes of provoking them into efforts leading to its eventual abolition." While he believed, early in his travels, that slavery was in the process of extinction, he later spoke of having mistakenly "seduced [his readers] into a belief that the horrors of slavery were extinguished" (Murphy, Land without Castles, 196).
That focus on slavery in America is especially evident in Hodgson's Letter to M. Jean-Baptiste Say, where he disputes Say's position that slave labor is more profitable than free labor. Hodgson rigorously compares "the costs expended to maintain free laborers and slaves, the work output of these two classes, the worth of land in slave and free regions, and the value of estates before and after emancipation" (Bacon, Freedom's Journal, 229). In addition, he uses the "arguments of Adam Smith to support his anti-efficiency argument," as well as the writings of David Hume, Franklin, Edmund Burke and others "to demonstrate an intercultural dimension to his arguments on the wastefulness of slavery" (Murphy, 208). Sabin 32358. Field 704. Howes H560. Allibone I:853. Trace of bookplate removal. Title page with embossed library stamp; corner excised without loss of text, possibly to remove owner signature. Early inked "Woodbury Library" to upper edge of first text leaf, tiny bit of marginalia to one leaf (181).
Text generally fresh with some scattered foxing, faint occasional dampstaining, light edge-wear, mild rubbing to boards. A very good copy, very scarce in unrestored contemporary tree calf.