American Liberties and American Slavery

Seymour Boughton TREADWELL

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(SLAVERY) TREADWELL, Seymour Boughton. American Liberties and American Slavery. Morally and Politically Illustrated. New-York: John S. Taylor, 1838. Octavo, original brown cloth. $2800.

First edition of this abolitionist's treatise, a detailed antislavery work, emphasizing the slaveholders' muzzling of the democratic process by preventing public discussions of slavery and thus barring the possibility of democratic change, in the original cloth, with the bookplate of the Anti-Slavery Library.

"Originally a backer of Henry Clay's colonization scheme, Treadwell evolved into an advocate of abolition, the most extreme of the anti-slavery positions… Treadwell's 1837 Independence Day address to an anti-slavery group prompted suggestions that he publish his abolition arguments. Selling his business, he moved to Rochester, where he penned the book American Liberties and American Slavery Morally and Politically Illustrated, a systematic rebuttal of the most common objections to abolition. That book, published in May 1838, gave Treadwell national standing. About a year after its publication, he was invited by the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society to visit Jackson. The group had organized in Ann Arbor in 1836. But Jackson, a few months prior to Treadwell's visit, had given birth to the state's first anti-slavery newspaper, the American Freeman. The paper failed after three issues, and Treadwell was invited to revive it… Filled with lengthy letters, essays and full-page speech transcripts, the Freeman had plenty of focus. Treadwell was a 'one-idea man,' and that idea was the eradication of slavery… Meanwhile, he farmed in Leoni Township… according to his daughter, he used the farm for a more secretive purpose—aiding fugitive slaves as a station along the Underground Railroad" (Jackson Citizen Patriot).

"In 1838, Treadwell, an obscure nonlawyer abolitionist, devoted a book to slavery and its relation to American liberty. The centerpiece of the book was a defense of freedom of expression, a concept he distinguished from the 'loose… idea of a licentious liberty'… Treadwell suggested the right to free speech was a national right protected by the Federal Constitution. Southerners were able to express pro-slavery sentiments in the North and should be protected in that right, for they were 'American citizens, still under the… American constitution'" (Michael Kent Curtis, "The Curious History of Attempts to Suppress Anti-Slavery Speech, Press, and Petition in 1835-37," in Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 89, No. 3, page 865). Contemporary bookplate of the Anti-Slavery Library.

Some dampstaining to first few and last few leaves, chiefly marginal; light rubbing to binding. A very good copy in original cloth.

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