Peterboro, NY: [N.P.], 1844. First edition. Broadside measuring 16.75 x 12 inches and printed to recto. Light scattered foxing; faint vertical and horizontal fold lines. In all, a pleasing example of a scarce abolitionist text. OCLC reports 9 surviving copies, with this being the only one on the market.
A philanthropist, reformer, and cousin of the famed activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gerrit Smith is best known for his anti-racist and abolitionist work. A close associate of William Lloyd Garrison and a financial backer of John Brown, he wrote numerous broadsides calling to the end of slavery, the purchase of land tracts to be provided to freed people, and the expansion of Black Americans' rights. The present broadside is an example of such work, as Smith takes aim specifically at his own county's voting record and the tapering participation of abolitionists in the local compared to the federal general elections. Providing statistics on a recent vote, he argues that while "there are various explanations of this falling off in our aggregate vote: but however true, they are unsatisfactory." And he asserts that the anti-slavery movement -- and especially its voting members of privilege -- must maintain at all times a high level of commitment and speak out at every possible opportunity. "It is said that the Town Meeting does not, like the General Election, draw out the whole strength of the party. But the anti-slavery voter should feel it to be his duty to improve every opportunity to testify for the slave. He should be as prompt to vote at the Spring as at the Fall election...Liberty Party men vote for a principle-- for the great principle of impartial and universal liberty -- as much so when voting for great Constable as for a Member of Congress." For those fighting for the freedom of others, it is the height of privilege to relax at any opportunity for pushing the movement ahead; and, as Smith understands, while federal leadership is crucial, so, too, is the present of progressives in the grass-root and local governments and judiciaries that will enact those laws.
Smith's rallying cry for maintaining activism at a fever pitch, and his identifying how and why white activists might flag in their public participation in anti-racism, has significant echoes today. Indeed, while white people's participation in and support for the Black Lives Matter movement hit a crescendo following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, recent statistics show white participation slowing to a pre-2020 level as the COVID 19 pandemic lockdowns wind down in the U.S. The question of keeping high rates of participation among activists who themselves are not confronted with racism and discrimination on a daily basis -- who live in a system designed for their comfort -- is thus not a new but rather an ongoing issue that needs address. A stirring rhetorical and statistical reminder. (Item #4374)