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During the decades before and just after the Civil War, a historical collection of abolitionist documents was being compiled in the offices of two government officials. Salmon P. Chase (1808-1873), member of the Lincoln Cabinet and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and John P. Hale (1806-1873), a distinguished lawyer and senator from New Hampshire, were both active in the anti-slavery movement. Between them was accumulated a rich legacy of abolitionist materials now accessible to today's researchers.

The 166 pamphlets, speeches, reports, legal opinions, and convention proceedings, most printed in the 1840s and 1850s, examine the historical, legal, social, and religious aspects of the slavery issue. Students in American history, black studies, the Civil War, and political science can examine such questions as:


  • the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850
  • the annexation of Texas
  • the condition of freed slaves
  • the forced emigration of blacks
  • the constitutional rights of blacks

The writings of Theodore Parker, Sojourner Truth, Emma Willard, Daniel Webster, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Horace Mann address the problem of slavery in America, while other tracts in the collection in French, Spanish, and German provide insight into the slavery issue in the Caribbean during this same period.

Several holdings in the collection illuminate the situation of freedmen just after the Civil War. These include the charter and bylaws of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company of Washington, D.C., the minutes of the 1866 Freedmen's Convention, a 1867 issue of The Freedman's Record, and several issues of The American Freedman (1866-67). The opposing viewpoint is represented in this material as well, with such pro-slavery views as John H. Van Evrie's Negroes and Negro "Slavery": The First, an Inferior Race--the Latter, its Normal Condition (1854).

Historians particularly interested in the activities of the numerous societies and conventions to aid African-Americans will discover useful information, such as:


  • convention proceedings and annual reports from the African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • convention materials from the 1853 Colored National Convention
  • documents of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society
  • material from the Society of Friends, a group that supported the abolitionist movement

In addition, these pamphlets will help researchers study the Civil War and its causes, and analyze the legal, religious, and moral ramifications of American slavery on the U.S. then and now. The authoritative sources from the libraries of these two prominent government officials make this collection truly unique among abolitionist literature collections.


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