America: the slave made free
T HE British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society, founded in 1839, was dedicated, with characteristic Victorian optimism, to the abolition of slavery and the slave trade throughout the world. Among the countries upholding these institutions, of which Britain had with difficulty rid herself, the United States was the most important, with some two and a half million slaves in 1842. (By the outbreak of Civil War, in 1861, this figure had risen to approaching four million.)
The Quaker-dominated B.F.A.S.S. assiduously cultivated its contacts in the American anti-slavery movement through the exchange of propaganda and personnel, but prejudices as well as confidences were shared. Abhorrence of slavery did not always imply sympathy for the Negro, in either American or Englishman.2 In a curious way, the British anti-slavery campaign
1 7 March 1866. 2 E. Berwanger's The Frontier against Slavery, for instance, establishes
that many in America's north-west who condemned slavery opposed its extension for economic rather than humanitarian reasons, sharing current
became a commitment to abstract principles, like justice and equality, in which the Negro was overshadowed. The slave was idealized and, in consequence, de-humanized.