the purchase of slaves in Massachusetts was illegal, owning slaves that were
purchased elsewhere was not. Fine homes were staffed with African and Native
American slaves until the newly independent General Court of Massachusetts
abolished slavery completely in the Revolutionary War.
Prior to the Civil War, Newburyport, MA, was divided over slavery. Many leading citizens profited from and defended slavery. But it also had been a frequent topic from the pulpit. The Underground Railroad was very active in Newburyport. The abolitionist movement reached a peak in Newburyport with the activities of William Lloyd Garrison, who was born there and helped develop the anti-slavery climate. He was imprisoned on charges of libel for accusing a shipowner of transporting slave captains in chains. His statue stands tall in Brown Square, the scene of abolitionist meetings.
Pleased to offer a Civil War period first-hand account of a Newburyport publisher-minister’s preaching against slavery, but feeling conflicted regarding the politics of slavery and explaining that his readers oppose controversy. In the end, he concedes that he is for free souls, “no property in human beings, black or white.”
2 pp, 5 ¼ x 7 ¾, D.R. Pike, ALS, to Philip D. Blaisdele of Newburyport, MA, May 12, 1864.
“I have published two articles from your pen somewhat controversial to which I have replied. Our readers do not care to have much controversy, so, that if we write more, I will have to wait…its course where there may be more and not exclude other articles. I have no objection to controversy but the readers, many of them, object. So, I shall not allow any more…We [are] now wanting some twenty different subjects of controversy that must be considered when it is convenient. As a Christian and a Christian minister, I am obliged to oppose slavery and especially American slavery. But as a politician, I do not care a fig about slavery as a mere partisan in politics…I am a Republican in politics. I am so consciously…I never introduced Republicanism or democracy, as such, in the pulpit as a minister of Jesus Christ. But I do preach against American slavery…and all other sins. My political rights are my own, the property of my conscience. I am willing to allow the same honesty to others but I am, myself, for free speech, free press, free pulpits, free schools…and free souls. No property in human beings, black or white. I am for free soil and free men. Yours in haste, D.P. Pike”
Folds with light toning. Very readable and a wonderful first-hand account of a minister preaching against slavery in the middle of the Civil War and in a town noted for its Underground Railroad.
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