Gert Jan Bestebreurtje Rare Books has issued List 63 on Slavery & the Slave Trade. Most of the items cover slavery in the Americas, the United States and the Dutch colony of Suriname in particular, and the African colonies from which the slaves were taken. While there are many books in the Dutch language, there are also many in English, primarily of American origin. We will focus mostly on these in this review.
The year 1850 was a pivotal one in the U.S. with regards to slavery. There were numerous abolitionists before this time, but their influence was limited. North and South coexisted, even if warily. After the Mexican War, the U.S. gained much new land, and as the nation anticipated new states, the issue of whether they would be free or slave became a major problem. Outside of Texas, it was unlikely any other new state would be slave. The South feared the balance of power in Congress would shift to the North with the new states. Threats of secession were now voiced by southern politicians. In an attempt to hold the Union together, many northern and border politicians tried to work a compromise with the South. The result was the Compromise of 1850. It allowed for the possibility of more slave states, but let California enter free. It also required the North to enforce slavery in its states through the Fugitive Slave Law. Neither side liked the compromise, but it preserved the stand off for a few more years. Nonetheless, the South wanted more, the North found the Fugitive Slave Law repugnant, and while delaying the break that led to war, the compromise likely made it inevitable. Item 48 is the Speech of Henry Clay, of Kentucky, on taking up his compromise resolutions on the subject of slavery. It was delivered on February 5 and 6 of 1850. The “Great Compromiser” was not able to get his omnibus bill passed, but eventually, its provisions would be passed in separate pieces. Priced at €65 (euros, or approximately $86 U.S. dollars). Item 267 is Speech upon the subject of slavery; delivered in the United States Senate on Thursday March 7, 1850. This is the great orator Daniel Webster's famous “Seventh of March” speech wherein he described himself “...not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man, but as an American...” In other words, he was willing to accept something as odious to the North as the Fugitive Slave Law to preserve the Union. It spelled the end of his popularity in the North, where he came to be looked on as a turncoat, putting an end to his long held dream of becoming President. €75 (US $100).
The phrase “preserving the Union” would take on an entirely different meaning after the Civil War began. It was the rallying cry of northerners who fought to prevent the South from breaking away. However, in the days before the war, such as Webster's time, it was the cry of northerners who favored giving in to southern demands to prevent the South from seceding. It is in that spirit that we have the Official Report of the Great Union Meeting held at the Academy of Music in the City of New York, December 19th 1859. The South, having seen the Supreme Court support most of its demands in the Dred Scott decision, was of little mind to compromise by this point. The result was this meeting had to be very sympathetic to slave interests if it hoped to preserve the Union without going to war. Of course, it was no more successful than were Clay and Webster a decade earlier. Item 204. €95 (US $126).
Not everyone was so compromising on the issue of slavery. Joshua Reed Giddings was a firebrand abolitionist congressman from Ohio. He served through most of the years from 1838-1858. In 1842, as a result of a series of resolutions he sponsored to inhibit the slave trade, he was censored by Congress. This was the era of the “gag rule” that forbade Congress to even discuss slavery. Giddings promptly resigned his seat, ran for reelection, and was reelected by an overwhelming margin. Giddings would later be one of the founders of the Republican Party, more radical in his opposition to slavery than most, a supporter of Lincoln, and Lincoln's Consul to Canada. Item 86 is Giddings' 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, published in 1858. The Maroons were slaves who had escaped to Florida during the time it was controlled by Spain. After America took over, they were still able to obtain protection from the Seminole Indians, but as the Seminoles were forced to move to Oklahoma, so were those Maroons who had not earlier fled to the Caribbean. Additionally, they faced the risk of re-enslavement. It was against their continuing mistreatment that Giddings wrote. €150 (US $199).
Item 130 is an interesting item – Family name & kinship of emancipated slaves in Suriname. Tracing ancestors, by H.E. Lamur. Published in 2004, this two volume set provides information on the individuals who were slaves in Suriname on July 1, 1863, when slaves in this Dutch colony were emancipated. €75 (US $100).