• Abolitionist Wendell Phillips Admits Connection to John Brown Soldier; Evades Discussion

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    WENDELL PHILLIPS (November 29, 1811-February 2, 1884) was one of the most important voices in the abolitionist movement and probably one of the least celebrated. When on Oct. 21, 1835, the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society announced that George Thompson would be speaking, pro-slavery forces posted nearly 500 notices of a $100 reward for anyone who would cause violence to Thompson.  Thompson canceled and William Lloyd Garrison decided to speak. A lynch mob formed, forcing Garrison to flee. The mob found him hiding in a carpenter shop, put a noose around his neck to drag him away. Phillips, who was converted to abolitionism by Garrison, witnessed this and stopped practicing law to devote himself to the cause.  His oratorical abilities were extraordinary. He believed that racial injustice was the source of all of society’s ills. He denounced the Constitution for tolerating slavery.   In 1854, Phillips was indicted for participating in the attempt to rescue Anthony Burns, a captured fugitive slave, from a Boston jail.  His partnership with Garrison forged an important relationship that helped to shape the abolitionist movement of the 1840s.

    RICHARD REALF (June 14, 1832-October 28, 1878) was born in East Sussex, England.  During his life, he was a poet, abolitionist and a journalist. After arriving in the United States, he explored the slums of New York City and became a Five Points Missionary. He assisted in establishing cheap lectures and a self-improvement association. He became acquainted with radical abolitionist John Brown, accompanied him to Canada, and was to be secretary of state in the provisional government that Brown projected. When Brown made his attempt at Harpers Ferry in October 1859, Realf was in Texas, where he was arrested and sent to Washington, DC, being in imminent danger of being hanged along the way. He was later released and enlisted in the 88th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Some of his best lyrics were written in the field and were widely circulated. After the war, he was commissioned in a colored regiment and in 1866 was mustered out with the rank of Captain and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel. Realf committed suicide in 1878 due to a bad marriage.

    Offered is a 2 pp, 5” x 8” ALS in which Phillips acknowledges having known Realf. Oct. 10, 1882, “Dear Sir, I knew Realf but so little & met him only once or twice – that I could not have helped you years ago. With that distance of time, I have literally nothing to tell you & you must excuse me. Yours, Wendell Phillips”

    Letter is tipped to a larger, blue-lined sheet. Toning, light scuffing in right corner, not affecting writing, minor glue residue. Very fine piece of abolitionist history.

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