Excerpts from A Side-Light on Anglo-American Relations, 1839-1858

Lewis Tappan, et al.

Excerpts from A Side-Light on Anglo-American Relations, 1839-1858

Citation Information: Excerpts from A Side-Light on Anglo-American Relations, 1839-1858, Furnished by the Correspondence of Lewis Tappan and Others with the British and Foreign Anti- Slavery Committee, eds. Heloise Abel and Frank J. Klingberg, Lancaster, PA. 1927. Yale University. Microform.

“I wish your Lushingtons, Buxtons, Broughams, O’Connells, [6] Eardley Wilmots and other statesmen who feel that the British Nation has a call in Providence to care for bleeding human nature would turn their thoughts to the simple idea developed in your letter and confirmed by Buxton’s book; that it is idle to think of suppressing the Slave trade, while Slavery continues to make it profitable, and then let them urge the Government to direct their efforts and shape their diplomatic and commercial arrangements against Slavery itself, wherever it exists, that is the only way and whatever right the Laws of Nations give to a Government in regard to Slave trading, must be equally valid with regard to Slavery. Great Britain cannot enjoy her rightful commercial advantages in Africa, as long as Spain, Portugal, Brazil and the United States hold slaves. She cannot protect her West Indian subjects from the liability of being kidnapped. Her coloured seamen and other subjects, coming in her ships to the port of Cuba or of the United States are at once treated like felons, and imprisoned, and if by any oversight left in prison, are sold as slaves.

“Why should she be at all this immense expenditure of wealth and life on the Coast of Africa, when she has it in her power to coerce every Slave trading power but the United States to abolish Slaver, and thus annihilate the Market?

“I hope your friends in Parliament will sift Lord Palmerton’s concessions to Mr.. Stevenson [7] with regard to the Slaves shipwrecked on the Bahamas, also keep a good look out with regard to Texas and Cuba.

“It would be well if more powerful articles could be published in your Quarterlies of which 2000 copies are regularly printed and circulated in the United States The facts in regard to Slavery and the Slave Trade, the true results of West India Emancipation the principles by which the British government and Nation are governed in this behalf, would thus find a place in every public Library and brought fully before the most intelligent and reading minds, in all parts of the country, South as well as North. Your views in regard to the collection of funds for our operations correspond with my own.

“The suggestion came from our esteemed friend at Philadelphia named Sam. Webb.

I am with much esteem

Your friend,


6. Not all connected with the Anti-Slavery cause in Britain were proud or even tolerant of association with men like Brougham and O’Connell. E. Bickersteth, writing from Walton Rectory, Ware, May 20, 1835, to the Secretary of the London Anti-Slavery Society then in existence, the predecessor of the B. & F. A_S Society said,

“I have been, I believe, almost from the beginning a member of the Anti-Slavery Society though I have always regretted the union with men of the avowed principles of Lord Brougham & Mr. O’Connell….

“The object of the society I consider to be most truly Christian & benevolent : but the course of public events has more deeply than ever impressed upon my mind the importance of attention to the plain Christian principle, ‘Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers.’ The Committee having therefore chosen to call Lord Brougham & Mr. O’Connell to take so leading a part in the proceedings of its Anniversary, I must beg them to withdraw my name from the members of n Institution so completely under such influence.”

7. Andrew Stevenson.



October 19/39 [8]



My dear Friend,

By ship Wellington, for London, I wrote to you on the 10th inst., acknowledging the receipt of your letter by the steamer Liverpool, without date, and the wood cut &c, of the Candelabrum. I wrote also respecting S. P. Andrews, [9] Esq. of the Amistad case which is exciting the attention of the American people—of H. B. M. Brig Buzzard, Lieut. Comr. Fitzgerald and her two prizes now in this harbour—of Mr. Stevenson [10]—my intended interview with Mr. Andrews, &c, &c,. Mr. Andrews as I wrote to you, thinks G. B. should declare the slave trade piracy—treat with Mexico for her right to Texas, Mexico wanting a good pretext to give her up—treat, at the same time, with Texas, proposing to acknowledge her independence—give her commercial advantages, discriminating duties on cotton, &c. and make a great loan, say of ten millions of pounds sterling, perhaps half the sum would answer—if she will alter her constitution and take effectual steps to abolish slavery. He thinks also a strong squadron, off Texas, wd assist the negotiation. There are his views.

“After dispatching my letter I had a long interview with Mr. Andrews. I handed him your letter, and also a set of the interrogatories previously sent out, desiring him to write a reply. He has done so, and I enclose his communication. It will be published in the Emancipator [11] of the 27th probably. I hoped to have it printed in season to send by this opportunity instead of taxing you with the postage of the original.

Messrs Andrews & Bullard visited the Buzzard & saw her prizes. I sent an artist down the harbour, and he has made a beautiful drawing of the vessels. Fitzgerald was arrested the other day by a man whom he had employed to get one of the prizes afloat, and Capt. F. told me the Spanish minister, he might have intended Consul, had intimated to him that although he felt much esteem for him it would be agreeable to him not to receive any recognition from Capt. F. as they went to and fro from Staten Island to this city, frequently, alleging that public opinion was such here among Spaniards &c., that it would not do for him to be known to be on sociable terms with the commander of the Buzzard! Capt. F. appears to be a meritorious officer, & has I believe, acquitted himself so as to do honor to himself and his country since his Brig has been in our waters. He expects to sail in a few days, with his prizes as this Govt will not receive them.

“I have received a farewell letter from Mr. Andrews dated Boston Oct. 15, written just as he was on the point of sailing for New Orleans. He thinks it his duty to return to Texas forthwith, but says it is possible he might go to Cuba sometime in the winter. I did not hand him your letter to Dr. Madden…. [12]

8. This letter was read at the B. & F. A-S. Society Committee meeting, November 1, 1839 (Minute Books, I).

9. Stephen Peal Andrews

10. At Denison House there is a rough draft of a Joseph Sturge communication, dated Birmingham, 9th month, 7th, 1839, and addressed to the British Association for the Advancement of Science. It shows that the United States minister to the Court of St. James was known to be a pro-slavery sympathizer. Sturge wrote in what, for him must have been great indignation,

“I observe in the report of the proceedings at a dinner of the Members of your body on the 29th ultimo at the Town Hall in this place, when the Marquis of Northampton presided, Andrew Stephenson the American Minister was treated with distinguished honor & that in addressing the company he said.

” ‘America & England were bound together by strong & glorious ties—they were allied in blood, Religion Habits & associations…”

“While according on this occasion to the American minister that attention which you might deem his position entitled him you might be little less disposed to criticize too closely that equivocal congratulations conveyed in this sentence or to remember that there are ‘habits and associations’ in slave dealing America which it would be the deepest insult to insinuate applied to yourselves. I mean the American Slave Trade & Slavery with which Andrew Stephenson is alike politically and personally identified— We may indeed lament if the Atlantic should cease to sever us from the ‘habits’ of iniquity and the degrading ‘associations’ which this system involves. It would be an outrage to the feelings of Englishmen to suppose that any ties could make them one with a community whose moral sense is so utterly extinguished as to insert advertisements similar to the following in their public newspapers —

20 Dollars Reward— Ran away a negro man named Harrison—it is supposed that he will make for South Carolina in pursuit of his wife in possession of Capt. D. Bird—


Sturge further condemned the ambassador by quoting from a speech that Daniel O’Connell had made at a meeting august 1, 1836, to commemorate the abolition of British slavery—

” ‘It is asserted that their very ambassador is a slave breeder, one of those beings who rear and breed up slaves for the purpose of traffic. Is it possible that America would send a man who traffics in blood?…”

“This (went on Sturge) has not been denied by the American Minister and a letter from the Secretary of the American Anti-Slavery Society dated from New York November the 22nd 1838 states,

” ‘The conduct of Mr. Stephenson of whom it is undeniable Mr. O’Connell spoke only the truth has been a standing subject of debate even in the slave States and in the course of the discussion it cannot fail to have been seen by some, how intolerable is an institution which though honourable at home, disgraces all connected with it abroad.’ “

11 The New York Emancipator, or The Weekly Emancipator, was established in New York City, in March, 1833, with the assistance of Arthur and Lewis Tappan and under the editorship of William Goodell. (Tuckerman, Bayard, William Jay and the Constitutional Movement for the Abolition of Slavery, p. 40.) After the secession, however, of the Tappans and others from the old American Anti-Slavery Society, that Society held that the paper had originally belonged to it and, at its annual meeting in 1840, passed the following resolution:

“Resolved, That we consider the New York City Anti-Slavery Society are, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, morally and honorably bound to re-transfer the Emancipator to this society…” (Seventh Annual Report, p. 15.)

12 Richard Robert Madden (1798-1886), an Irishman of the Roman Catholic faith, a doctor of medicine, and an author of considerable repute in his own day. Between 1824 and 1827, he travelled extensively in the Levant and, in 1833, went out to Jamaica, preparatory to taking office there as one of the special magistrates, under the Marquis of Sligo, Governor, appointed to administer the British Emancipation Act, which was to go into effect in August, 1834. Difficulties connected with the working of the apprenticeship system brought him into collision with the planters of Kingston and, in consequence, he resigned his magistracy in November, 1834 (Dictionary of National Biography). En route for England, he visited the United States and made himself somewhat acquainted with conditions there, incident to slavery. In 1836, he was appointed judge arbitrator in the Mixed Court of Commission at Havana and continued about three years in Cuba, “first as a commissioner of the Mixed Court, and second as H. B. M. Superintendent of Liberated Africans” (New York Emancipator, November 7, 1839, p. 110; the B. & F. A-S. Reporter, I, p.3):

Of his connection with the Amistad Case, he himself gives us the origin. He was about to leave for England “when I ascertained that the trial was about to take place of upwards of forty individuals charged with murder and piracy, as Cuban slaves, whom I knew to be Bozal Africans recently introduced into Cuba, and therefore illegally held in slavery there— I determined to proceed to America at once, and give on their trial the only evidence which I supposed could be procured for them, with respect to that important fact. In taking this step I encountered some opposition, and assurance of disapproval of it, on the part of my superiors. I felt, however, that I had a duty to perform, and a right to expect it would be approved by the Secretary of State for the colonies. In that expectation I was not disappointed…” (Memoirs, etc. of Richard Robert Madden, edited by his son, Thomas More Madden (1891), pp. 82-83).

Soon after his return home, which was in time to take part in the Special Meeting of the British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society Committee, January 17, 1840 (Minute Books, I), he was sent to Egypt and, later, in 1841, to the West Coast of Africa, there to institute a special inquiry into the administration of the British settlements.

In March, 1843, he announced the necessity of severing his official connection with the anti-slavery cause (Minute Books, II, 53), ostensibly because of his intention to proceed to Portugal as a newspaper correspondent in Lisbon. The Committee expressed its regret and took steps to record formally its appreciation of his services and, particularly, of his West African. At the Committee meeting, March 31, 1843, he was cordially invited to maintain an official connection by becoming an Honorary Corresponding Member (idem, p. 61) and, at that of April 28, 1843, it was decided that he “be especially invited to be a Delegate to attend the Anti-Slavery Convention (idem, p. 72).

In 1847, Dr. Madden was again in British employ, having been appointed to a post in Western Australia, which included that of Protector of Aborigines. It was in the year of this appointment that he wrote the letter, to which incidental reference has been made in the Introduction, advising an enlistment of the sympathy and help of the Pope in the cause of anti-slavery (Letter to the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society Committee, April 10, 1847). Between 1850 and 1880, he was Secretary to the Loan Fund Board at Dublin Castle.



December 14, 1839



My dear Friend,

When Dr. Madden was here he, in conjunction with the counsel for the poor Africans brought here in the schooner Amistad, addressed a letter to the British members of the Mixt Commission at the Havana, requesting them to procure certified copies of the Treaties between England and Spain of 1814 and 1815 and Annexes. Yesterday a letter was recd from the British Commissioners stating that it was very doubtful whether they should be able to procure them–as the Govr would not probably affix his signature–that it was an extra-judicial act in them to apply for it—they might be censured by their own Govt as well as the authorities of Cuba, &c. Still their letter was very civil & concluded thus:—’We cannot conclude without expressing our gratification to observe the truly British feeling which animates your community on the subject of the wrongs to which those unhappy victims of the Slave trade have been exposed, and the peculiar zeal and ability you manifest in their behalf.’ We shall write to Mr. Fox, [21] the British minister in this country to apply to the Spanish minister here for certified copies of the Treaties and the Cedula or Royal Decree of Spain but we have little expectation of procuring them in this way—as the Spanish minister, like the Govr of Cuba may wish, instead of facilitating us to throw every obstacle in the way of obtaining the papers wanted. We have in books (our own law books and in British books) copies of said Treaties &c, but they cannot be received in Courts of Justice. Certified copies are indispensable. It would be desirable to obtain them from Spanish sources, but if this cannot be done we must obtain them from the British authorities. To ensure copies at any rate and as speedily as possible, Theodore Sedwick Esqr. Of counsel of the Africans, has, by this vessel, written to William Sharpe Esq. of the firm of Taylor, Sharpe, Field & Jackson, Solicitors, 41 Bedford Row, London for certified copies of the Treaties between England & Spain of 1814 and 1815 and Annexes, and by my permission has directed him to apply to you for the fees &c. I will thank you to advance the sum, & on your informing me the amount I will immediately reimburse you. I will thank you to see, before paying them, that the sum charged is reasonable. If you can get Dr. Madden or Mr. Scoble to see Mr. Sharpe, and urge him to thoroughness & despatch we shall be greatly obliged. We hope also that Dr. Madden will get instructions sent from the proper authority to the British Commissioners to afford every facility in their power in this case. We are most unfortunate in attempts to procure testimony in several respects. Our own Sec. Of State (Mr. Forsyth) is a Slaveholder—we get no facilities from our own Government—and the British Commissioners even are afraid of offending the Spaniards or their own Govt by performing an act not strictly, as they conceive, within the line of their duty.

“Dr. Madden’s letter [22] to Dr. Channing on the Slave trade &c,. is published & I hope to send you a copy by this opportunity. It is a severe thing, but justly deserved, & will, I hope, do much good. I shall send it to the care of Messrs Cupper, Benson & co, as I do not know your regulations about postage on pamphlets. When I was in England the postage on newspapers & pamphlets was enormous. Postage on newspapers & letters is now reduced. How it is on pamphlets I shall be glad to be informed…. [23]

“Affect & truly your’s

“Lewis Tappan”

21. Henry Stephen Fox. The communications passing between Mr. Fox and Secretary of State, John Forsyth; viz., Fox to Forsyth, January 20, 1840, and Forsyth to Fox, February 1, 1841, communicated to Congress by President Van Buren, were published in full in the B. & F. A-S reporter, II, 58-59 (March 24, 1841). For additional information on the Amistad case, see Memoirs of John Quincy Adams….Ed. By Charles Francis Adams, X, 132 ff., 367 ff.; XII, 186; Moore, J.B., International Law Digest, V, 852-854.

22. Madden Richard Robert, A Letter to W. E. Channing…on the Abuse of the Flag of the United States in…Cuba, and the advantage taken on its protection in promoting the slave trade, (Boston, 1839).

A Calm Observer, writing to Dr. Channing after Madden’s letter to him had become public, accused Madden of being always unreliable, a hypocrite, and of making a pretense to learning; but he, none the less, admitted the truth of Madden’s main contention that the Americans were engaged in and facilitating the slave trade (See pp. 25-27). He claimed, however, that, as the law stood, it was impossible for the United States Consul to do anything about it and he begged of Dr. Channing that he would make a moderate appeal to the American people. A second Madden letter against Trist was addressed to Ferdinand Clark of Havana, dated September 6, 1839, and published in the Emancipator, December 19, 1839, copied from the New Orleans True American, where the one to Channing was also published.

23. As a general thing, hereafter, all references to postal rates will be omitted from the letters.


STOKE NEWINGTON. 3 mo. 11. 1840.

“Respected friend,” [27]

“The letter bearing thy signature as Chairman of the Hibernian Anti-Slavery Sy. was read at our Committee on 6th Day in last week, when I volunteered to write a reply. In doing so I can scarcely refrain from expressing some surprise at remarks which appear to reflect strongly upon the character of the Committee of the British & Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, & which I do not think deserved, but I proceed to advert to the principal subject of the letter. This appears to be a demand that the Committee should assign the reasons for its conduct relative to J. A. Collins. [28]

On this point I may remark that the British & Forn Anti-Slavy Sy feel very strongly the importance of anti-Slavery Societies confining their attention to the simple objects of the abolition of the slave trade & slavery, and on this account think that those Societies in America which have connected with this great end the advocacy of what are called women’s rights or other extraneous subjects have adopted a course seriously injurious to the cause of emancipation. The opinion I have expressed has not been weakened by the opportunity of noticing the conduct of persons connected with the party referred to in America, at the late Convention, and regarding J. A. Collins as the Representative of a portion of this body we did feel bound to withhold giving him our confidence & support. In making known this sentiment we do not consider that we have done anything derogatory to the personal character of J. A. C. We do not indeed impute improper motives to many of those who have blended the advocacy of the rights of the slave with that of other objects, while we are seriously apprehensive that some such indiscreet friends are doing the work of an open enemy & possibly in some cases a greater injury than these are capable of effecting. In reference to extracts copied in M. S. & sent anonymously the Comee were not aware that such a circumstance had occurred until thy letter was read to them. It appears to have been done with the cognizance of two of their number & I may express my opinion that it would have been better avoided. It was deemed best by our Secy after the correspondence which had passed relative to J.A.C. to forward for your information the letter which contains an allusion among other matter to an anti-Sabbath Conn but in this step I do not think the Comee are committed to any opinion on the subjects to which the letter refers. It may not be improper to state that here is one part of J.A.C’s conduct since his coming to England which the Comee must disapprove, that of his imputing to J. G. Birnie [29] & H. B. Stanton conduct in America which it was said if it had been committed in this land would have subjected them to imprisonment.

“This was done at a Meeting at Chelmsford & may have occurred in other places. This is indeed a personal accusation of a most serious character against individuals who had come amongst us with high credentials & whom we had no ground to believe were unworthy of them. The charge too was made after Birnie &Stanton had left England & could not consequently reply personally. We have only in conclusion to express with you our hope that the cordial & friendly cooperation which has existed amongst us may continue. Our object is we trust the same, & we hope it ever will be while the occasion remains, the abolition of slavery & the slave trade. Should any alienation occur while cemented by this single bond of union it must assuredly give us much pain, but while we are united in our object we think such a circumstance almost impossible. Surely we are brethren & are not about to do wrong to the other.

With kind regards to thyself & each member of the Comee

Thy sincere friend

G. W. Alexander

27. James Haughton.

28. John A. Collins was one of the most influential members of the American Anti-Slavery Society and one of those who had, in the recent factional disputes (1839-1840), most vigorously resisted the claims and the pretensions of the secessionists, who had had the Tappan brothers, Leavitt and Phelps at their head. For an appreciation of the work of Collins, especially as General Agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, see the Twelfth Annual Report (1844) of that body, pp. 39-42. The allusions in Alexander’s letters are intelligible when one recalls that woman’s rights, states’ rights, or the relative position of the main society and its auxiliaries in the matter of raising funds, and what might, for lack of a better name, be called religious orthodoxy were the chief points in controversy between Garrison and Collins on the one hand and the secessionists on the other. Ulterior motives were, however, ascribed to the latter. Charles Tappan is said to have admitted that the real object of the secessionists was “to put down Garrison” (Seventh Annual Report of American Anti-Slavery Society, 1840, p. 70).

29. James G. Birney.