"THE ACCUMULATION OF HUMAN AGONY… THE CRUELTIES AND HORRORS OF THE PASSAGE ACROSS THE ATLANTIC": IMPORTANT FIRST EDITION OF THOMAS BUXTON'S AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE, 1839
(SLAVERY) BUXTON, Thomas Fowell. The African Slave Trade. London: John Murray, 1839. Octavo, contemporary full brown calf, elaborately gilt-decorated spine, raised bands, black morocco spine label, marbled endpapers and edges; pp. xv, 240. $2400.
First edition of British abolitionist Buxton's powerful call for an end to the slave trade by following the lead of William Wilberforce in calling for treaties and commerce to end the traffic in slavery, a handsome copy in contemporary calf.
Quaker Thomas Buxton was in Parliament when, in 1824, Wilberforce asked him to become his successor. "In 1789 Wilberforce had begged Parliament to 'make reparation to Africa'… by establishing a trade upon true commercial principles… Fifty years later Burton developed this appeal in African Slave Trade" (Oxford History: 19th Century, 209-10). Here Buxton builds on his years of anti-slavery work in Parliament, including his focus "on the treatment of the aboriginal peoples in South Africa, the foreign slave trade, and the apprenticeship of ex-slaves in the West Indies." On leaving Parliament in 1837, "he turned his attention to the suppression of the slave trade… The idea was to eradicate the African slave trade by substituting Christianity, civilization, and commerce" (ODNB).
Buxton, who founded the African Civilization Society the same year as this work's publication, was convinced that attempts "to put down the slave trade 'by the strong hand' alone" would fail. Here he documents its devastating human cost within Africa, the brutality of the Middle Passage, and points to the core of his proposal: "The slave trade suppresses all other trade, creates endless insecurity, kindles perpetual war, banishes commerce, knowledge, social improvement… Great Britain wants raw material, and market for her manufactured goods. Africa wants manufactured goods and a market for her raw material." Both, however, are "encircled by an effectual barrier… that barrier is the slave trade." Seeking to "secure the regeneration of Africa through agricultural development, Buxton thought Britain should set up a series of trading posts on and near the Niger as an alternative to slaving" (Thomas, 658). Ultimately he "simplified the politics of the movement…[combining] humanitarian sentiment with a recognition that government support could only be such as was compatible with other British interests" (Oxford History, 209-10). First edition: with no statement of "Second Edition." Precedes the first American edition. African Slave Trade and Buxton's subsequent work, The Remedy, were published separately in 1839 and combined in 1840 in The African Stave Trade and Its Remedy. Bound without publisher's ads. Sabin 9685. Goldsmiths 31181. See Kress C4818; Blockson 9121. With contemporary armorial bookplate of English classical scholar and cleric, William Gifford Cookesley.
Text fresh with light scattered foxing, trace of edge-wear, faint rubbing to contemporary calf. A near-fine copy.