"A CLASSIC IN EMANCIPATIONIST LITERATURE"
CLARKSON, T[homas], Esq. Thoughts on the Necessity of Improving the Condition of the Slaves in the British Colonies, With a View to their Ultimate Emancipation; And on the Practicability, the Safety, and the Advantages of the Latter Measure. London: Richard Taylor, 1823. Slim octavo, period-style half brown calf and marbled boards, red morocco spine label; pp. (iv) (1) 2-60. $2200.
First edition of Clarkson's powerful work in the fight to end slavery, arguing "if you put into one scale the gold and jewels of the Planters, you are bound to put into the other the liberty of 800,000 of the African race; for every man's liberty is his own property."
Clarkson, famed for his 1808 History with its folding engraved plate of a slave ship, was "the heart and soul of the campaign for abolition" of the slave trade (Thomas, 495). Yet, even after passage of the landmark 1807 Act that made the slave trade illegal in the British colonies, Clarkson and his fellow abolitionists knew enforcement would be daunting. After co-founding the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual of Slavery in 1823, Clarkson set out on a national tour in a new fight to ultimately end slavery. "Wherever he went, he breathed fresh life and energy" into the cause, arguing that freedom for the enslaved was "an eminently reasonable, peaceable, and unexceptional ambition… abolition would be advanced by enlightenment; the more people knew about slavery, the more powerful would be their outcry" (Walvin, England, Slaves and Freedom, 146-52).
"A classic in emancipation literature," Clarkson's Thoughts played a key role in that struggle. It urged "the adoption of ameliorative measures and the preparation of slaves for early freedom… and was very influential in forming public opinion" (Ragatz, Fall of the Planter Class). Assuring opponents that "emancipation and race war were not synonymous," and declaring paid labor to be far more profitable than slave labor, Clarkson documented "groups of slaves who were immediately or gradually liberated or rescued from illegal shipments of slaves" without triggering violent rebellion. He also invoked the example of Joshua Steele, a Barbados slave-owner, whose estate system was said to protect property and profits "by banning the use of the whip, paying his enslaved workers and establishing a system of tenancy" (Lambert, White Creole Culture, 41). What is history to conclude, Clarkson asks, if England abolished the slave trade, yet "she continues slavery… If you put into one scale the gold and jewels of the Planters, you are bound to put into the other the liberty of 800,000 of the African race; for every man's liberty is his own property" (emphasis in original). Serialized in the journal The Inquirer. Sabin 13497. Goldsmiths' 24300 (4th ed). Ragatz, 490. Occasional early marginalia.
Text fresh with only tiny gutter-edge pinholes from original stitching. A handsome about-fine copy.