Philadelphia: Merrihew & Thompson, 1848. First edition. Contemporary straight-grain morocco embossed in gilt on spine and boards. All edges speckled blue. Yellow endpapers. Small splits to front joint near spine ends and some gentle rubbing to extremities. Tight and square. Offsetting to front and rear pastedowns. Internally a surprisingly fresh copy, with minimal scattered foxing. Complete in 116 pages. A scarce and important work documenting the history of America's first anti-slavery society as it entered a critical year, it is the only copy on the market and has not appeared at auction.
Founded in 1775, the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery was the first anti-racist and anti-slavery organization in North America. By the time of Edward Needles' presidency, the nearly 75 year old group had brought about numerous legislative appeals and bills, had substantially grown its membership, and had supported the development of other grassroots abolition organizations across the Northeast. The present volume was released to remind members of its accomplishments. Recording the history of the slave trade on the North American continent (and its own members' early participation in the enslavement of African Americans), it documents the foundation of the group and its members' manumission of enslaved people; it further details the methods the group had taken to date to expand the rights of free Black communities and support Black churches, and to prevent or slow the expansion of slavery as the U.S. aggressively pressed for westward expansion. More than a paean of praise, the memoir was also a call to renewed action as the question of equality continued to evolve. Women, who were critical to the successes of the abolition movement, were calling out organizations' hypocrisy in denying them leadership roles and failing to consistently support women's rights; and in the same year as this memoir, under the leadership of abolitionists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, such women would sign the Declaration of Sentiments outlining their demands for freedom. Meanwhile, slavery had yet to be abolished, as Needles points out; and slavery proponents were making the case for "strengthening the bands of oppression" of Black people by legalizing slavery in the newly annexed territory of Texas. Thus, Needles' publication attempts to reunify members under a concrete and consistent cause: "It having pleased the Creator of the world, to make of one flesh all the children of men -- it becomes them to consult and promote each other's happiness as members of the same family, however diversified they may be by colour, situation, religion, or different states of society."
Howes N32. Sabin 52235. (Item #4077)