"LET THE HARDSHIP OF THE SLAVES BE MITIGATED, AS IN OTHER COUNTRIES, AND OTHER TIMES, BY HUMAN AND JUDICIOUS REGULATIONS"
[INNES, William]. A Letter to the Members of Parliament Who Have Presented Petitions to the Honourable House of Commons for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. London: J. Sewell, J. Murray, and J. Debrett, 1792. Octavo, sewn as issued, original printed cream self-wrappers, uncut and unopened; pp. 84. $2200.
First edition of this slave owner's crafty dismissal of the abolitionist cause, cloaked as an objection to the validity of anti-slavery petitions put forth by some members of the House of Commons.
Written by a plantation owner and slavery supporter, this work was published shortly before Wilberforce's first debate on the motion for the abolition of the slave trade in April 1792. While it relies on much of the pro-slavery rhetoric of the period (e.g. that slaves were better off on Jamaican plantations than in Africa), it also takes a less common approach to undermining the anti-slavery movement. Here, Innes presents questions about the validity of the abolitionists' petitions and their methods of obtaining support. He directly attacks Wilberforce, accusing him of secrecy in declining to advertise the date he would table the motion. Innes argues that this was done so "that he might gain as much time as possible; so that his Emissaries might thereby by enable to procure Petitions, with Instructions to you, the Representatives of Counties and Boroughs to mount behind him, on his hobby-horse." Innes also objects to the methods by which signatures to petitions were secured, arguing that Wilberforce and his allies only collected signatures from non-landowners and disinterested parties. Thus, this piece constitutes an important primary source on the pro-slavery side of the British abolition debate. Sabin 37488.
A few minor spots of foxing to preliminary and concluding pages. Near-fine condition.