Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2011 Issue

Slavery, Voyages, and Colonial History from Bestebreurtje Rare Books

Bestebreurtje144

Slavery and other topics.

Gert Jan Bestebreurtje Rare Books has issued their 144th catalogue:  Early Voyages & Slavery, Colonial & Maritime History. Actually, the catalogue is grouped under three headings, Early Voyages, Slavery, and Colonial & Maritime History. We will focus on the middle of these three categories - slavery. Works in this catalogue are primarily in Dutch and English, with English titles mostly found among those related to slavery. There is much of interest to American collectors in this field offered. Slavery was an issue for many nations, but for none did it prove so divisive and internally destructive as it did for the United States. Its legacy still reverberates to this day, though terminated almost a century and a half ago. Now, here are a few items from this latest Bestebreurtje catalogue.

 

While many in the U.S. Congress in the days before the Civil War opposed slavery, few were true abolitionists, those who wanted to eliminate slavery rather than coexists with it. Joshua Giddings was a true abolitionist, one who detested slavery. He served as a representative from Ohio from 1838-1859, where his views were popular. He fought against the gag rule in Congress, which forbade discussions of slavery, and against the annexation of Texas, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, all on anti-slavery grounds. He condemned the Fugitive Slave Act and encouraged runaway slaves to defend themselves from their pursuers. He supported the Underground Railroad to freedom. He argued for the slaves in the Creole case, an onboard ship revolt similar to the Amistad case. His resolutions supporting these escaped slaves led to his censure by the House, whereupon Giddings resigned his seat and was promptly reelected. Item 186 is a book Giddings published in 1858:  The exiles of Florida:  or, the crimes committed by our government against the Maroons, who fled from South Carolina and other slave states, seeking protection under Spanish laws. Prior to 1820, Florida was a Spanish possession, and slavery was illegal. It became a haven for runaway slaves, much as Canada would become in the era of the Underground Railroad. Giddings' book provides an account of the Seminole Wars that came after America took possession of Florida. The escaped slaves retained their freedom under territories controlled by the Seminoles, but one of the consequences of driving the Seminoles out of their land was the opening of the territory to slavery. Needless to say, Giddings was not pleased. Priced at €175 (euros, or approximately $260 in U.S. dollars).

 

Not so well remembered today is the "golden trumpet" of abolition, Wendell Phillips. Phillips was one of the great orators of the 19th century, but vocal skills from the pre-recording era tend to be forgotten. Quoting the Blockson bibliography, "To hear Phillips speak was to hear thunder threatening to darken a bright summer day." Phillips, with enough money to abandon his law practice in the 1830s, devoted his life to great causes, primarily abolition, but Indian, women's, and labor rights after emancipation. Item 255 is his Speeches, lectures, and letters, two volumes published in 1891. Item 255.  €225 (US $334).

 

Not every northerner was an abolitionist. Item 136 is A south-side view of slavery, or three months at the South, in 1854. This is an 1855 third edition of Rev. Nehemiah Adams' observations after spending a winter on the plantation of a southern slave owner. He was most favorably inclined towards slavery, defending it as being a positive influence on the "religious character" of the slaves. In its 1878 obituary of the puritanical Adams, the New York Times noted, "Neither his theological nor his political beliefs commend him to the admiration of the present generation." It goes on to note that "his intolerance in religious matters" could be understood from his austere upbringing, "but that a child who breathed the air of Massachusetts, the birthplace and early home of the Abolition movement, should grow up to become the abject apologist of slavery and the apostle of the slave power is incomprehensible." And obituaries are usually where people say the nicest things they can about someone. €165 (US $244).

 

Slavery may have been coming to an end when this book was published in London in 1864, but prejudicial viewpoints certainly were not. Item 310 is Lectures on man:  his place in creation, and in the history of the earth, by Carl Vogt. Vogt was a German zoologist who accepted Darwin's theory of evolution. However, Vogt maintained that different races of humans evolved from separate ancestors. Negroes, he said, evolved from apes; whites from something else. The Negro race, he concluded, was intellectually inferior, being the equivalent of white children. €95 (US $140).

 

Gert Jan Bestebreurtje Rare Books may be reached at +31 (0)347 322 548 or info@gertjanbestebreurtje.com. Their website is www.gertjanbestebreurtje.com.

 

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