An eccentric case study, chronologically located at the turn of the century, is offered by the _Expostulatory Letter to George Washington, on his Continuing to be a Proprietor of Slaves_. This powerful piece of antislavery rhetoric by blind working-class Liverpool poet Edward Rushton stands out as testimony not simply of the most radical fringes of British abolitionist movement but also as a clear-sighted and at the same time visionary political appraisal of the global impact of the revolutionary upsurges on both sides of the Atlantic, and of the fundamental ethical and logical flaws of dawning human rights discourse, deriving from its failure to apply to subjects like the enslaved Africans. Apparently returned by his eminent addressee, the Letter became a «Liverpool Printed» pamphlet and was to have intense circulation in America, as proposed to generations of readers throughout most of the antislavery struggle. In 1797, no less than three different editions followed one another in the United States, practically simultaneous to the publication in Britain, appearing in different print media, including the New York newspaper «The Time-Piece, and Literary Companion», where it triggered an enflamed verse debate; a broadside edition, again in New York, and as a pamphlet printed at Lexington, Kentucky, i.e. a state where slavery was an ingrained institution, by democratic and abolitionist campaigner and politician John Bradford. Another key figure of American antislavery movement, William Lloyd Garrison, played a crucial role in the Letter’s later circulation. The document by «an eminent philanthropist in Liverpool», as the important editorial note to the 1831 Garrison & Knapp print version reads, was reprinted various times in antislavery publications, including Garrison’s own weekly paper «The Liberator» and his publication The Abolitionist. The interest of the document per se no less than the entangled history of its dissemination make Rushton’s Letter an exceptional case of transatlantic crossing and circulation of ideas, and its impact on transatlantic abolitionist and antislavery discourse is a topic for research and critical assessment to come.

“Yet you are a slave-holder”: Washington, Rushton, Garrison, and the Transatlantic Tides of History

DELLAROSA, Franca
2012

Abstract

An eccentric case study, chronologically located at the turn of the century, is offered by the _Expostulatory Letter to George Washington, on his Continuing to be a Proprietor of Slaves_. This powerful piece of antislavery rhetoric by blind working-class Liverpool poet Edward Rushton stands out as testimony not simply of the most radical fringes of British abolitionist movement but also as a clear-sighted and at the same time visionary political appraisal of the global impact of the revolutionary upsurges on both sides of the Atlantic, and of the fundamental ethical and logical flaws of dawning human rights discourse, deriving from its failure to apply to subjects like the enslaved Africans. Apparently returned by his eminent addressee, the Letter became a «Liverpool Printed» pamphlet and was to have intense circulation in America, as proposed to generations of readers throughout most of the antislavery struggle. In 1797, no less than three different editions followed one another in the United States, practically simultaneous to the publication in Britain, appearing in different print media, including the New York newspaper «The Time-Piece, and Literary Companion», where it triggered an enflamed verse debate; a broadside edition, again in New York, and as a pamphlet printed at Lexington, Kentucky, i.e. a state where slavery was an ingrained institution, by democratic and abolitionist campaigner and politician John Bradford. Another key figure of American antislavery movement, William Lloyd Garrison, played a crucial role in the Letter’s later circulation. The document by «an eminent philanthropist in Liverpool», as the important editorial note to the 1831 Garrison & Knapp print version reads, was reprinted various times in antislavery publications, including Garrison’s own weekly paper «The Liberator» and his publication The Abolitionist. The interest of the document per se no less than the entangled history of its dissemination make Rushton’s Letter an exceptional case of transatlantic crossing and circulation of ideas, and its impact on transatlantic abolitionist and antislavery discourse is a topic for research and critical assessment to come.
File in questo prodotto:
Non ci sono file associati a questo prodotto.

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11586/45334
 Attenzione

Attenzione! I dati visualizzati non sono stati sottoposti a validazione da parte dell'ateneo

Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact