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    [Slavery]. Gideon Palmer Autograph Anti-Slavery Manuscript. Forty-three pages, 8" x 12.5" (length varies), n. p., n. d. (circa 1833). Palmer, a northerner from Connecticut, gives his observations of slavery as seen through northern eyes.

    Palmer begins his testimony: "I first went to the south in the fall of the year 1830 for the purpose of establishing the manufacture of cotton seed oil. My first engagement was...in Petersburg, Va...This afforded me the first opportunity for making personal observations on the nature, practice, and influence of the system of Slavery." He continues: "On my journey out, after leaving Richmond, a gintleman [sic] in the stage, learning that I was from the north, appeared to notion that I was unacquainted with the practice of that part of the country in regard to the laboring classes, and in the course of conversation, gave me to understand that the white people took no part in servile labour." He then witnesses firsthand the beating of a slave by the stage driver for not moving his cart far enough out of the way and observes of his fellow passengers, who are southerners: "all seemed to consider it a matter of no moment, as he was a negro." He laments: "Slavery is the extinction of all right: And the masters suffer this annoyance, rather than endanger, in the most remote degree, the perpetuity of the institution."

    While returning home, he is detained in Richmond, Virginia, for several days, There he meets an unsavory character who, to no surprise, is revealed as a trader in slaves: "He was a well dressed gentlemanly looking man, and could when he considered the occasion required it assume an air of great urbanity, and elegant address. He was about sixty years of age, carried a cane, and had but one eye; and from his general bearing and conversation, he seemed, mentally, to have a single eye to the destruction of all virtue; and to glory in poisoning the sources of human happiness. I allude to his case to show the corrupting influence of the traffick in human beings." While still in Richmond, "I...first witnessed the exposure of human beings at auction...So far as the sellers and buyers were concerned, their conduct and conversation were very similar to that exhibited at a sale of cattle at the north." He describes in detail the work ethic of the slaves, using as examples a slave named Bill and an unnamed slave who is a blacksmith.

    He returns to the south in 1833, this time travelling to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he has been invited to open a large scale operation: "I declined the offer but recommended a small establishment by way of trial which if successful could easily be enlarged...To this they finally agreed and advised to purchase slaves to perform the labour; but as I was to own a quarter of the concern I told them I should not buy men but hire them. I gave the preference to free labourers, but hired some slaves."

    In the end, after seeing the aftermath of a duel, he theorizes that the institution of slavery, coupled with the habit of drinking liquor, leads to a decline in general morality: "The transition from the disregard of the life of a slave to that of a free person is very natural and easy."

    Gideon Palmer (1793-1854) was the son of a Connecticut preacher who was also a distiller of spirits. When he was older, he was left to manage the family business, but abandoned the distillery and turned to making oils. He was an ardent abolitionist and member of the temperance movement until his death.

    A fascinating read full of great content! Light to moderate, uneven toning. Minor chipping along the page edges; scattered light to moderate foxing throughout. Page 5/6 is missing. Overall in near fine condition.


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    Auction Dates
    April, 2012
    11th-12th Wednesday-Thursday
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