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NEWSFROM 'AN INERT FIELDOF ENQUIRY' Anthony J. Barker. Captain Charles Stuart: Anglo~ American Abolitionist. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986. xv + 328 pp. James BrewerStewart. Wendell Phillips: Liberty's Hero. Baton Rouge:Louisiana State University Press, 1986. xiii +355pp. Illus. Margaret M.R. Kellow Isthere anything left to say about abolitionism and if there is, is there any point in saying it? The waning of antislavery studies from the heady days of 1960s "neoabolitionism'' has been widely observed and the subject of some lamentation .1 In the early 1970s, an opportunity for reflection, synthesis and integration seemeda good thing. From the vantage point of the mid-1980s, however, the hoped-for syntheses have been slow in appearing. Commentators express fears thatabolitionist studies have somehow lost their way. The source of the malaise hasbeen variously identified as the consequence of a misguided fixation on the searchfor inner meanings or, conversely, as a failure to come to terms with the personalexperience of individual abolitionists. 2 Without challenging these issues directly, the two studies under discussion manifest vigorous and productive scholarship. New perspectives and new bodies of evidence have been tapped to generate important insights, a development which should encourage those still laboringin the field and give pause to those who have concluded that abolitionism hasbeen exhausted as a fruitful area of inquiry. Anthony J. Barker's Captain Charles Stuart: Anglo-American Abolitionist makesan important contribution to antislavery scholarship on both sides of the Atlantic. Barker's work demonstrates that there are aspects of the respective nationalcampaigns which can only be understood with reference to developments in the other, and that Stuart frequently functioned as the vehicle for these interactions.Stuart is best known in American abolitionism for bringing Theodore 270 Margaret M. R. Kellow Weld into the antislavery movement. Like Stuart, a disciple of Charles Finnev Weld subsequently adapted the itinerant ministry of the Second Great Awakeni~~ to the service of immediatism during the 1830s. Barker points out that priortothi~ development in the United States, Stuart had put it into practice in the United Kingdom to mobilize provincial support for the Emancipation Bill in 183I. This development led to, and did not, as Howard Temperley has argued, followupon, the establishment of the Agency Committee of the British Anti-Slavery Society,1 Stuart's American connections enabled him to function as a conduit ofBritish antislavery to American abolitionists and vice versa. Nowhere is this moreevident than in his role in discrediting the American Colonization Society in Britain in 1831.Stuart's denunciations of gradualism and the ACS strengthened the impetus for immediate emancipation in Britain. As news filtered back to America,this gave tremendous encouragement to immediatists there. American versionsof Stuart's British pamphlets circulated widely. His warm welcome openedmany doors for Garrison in London in 1833. Stuart's efforts turned the attentionofthe British Anti-Slavery Society to American slavery following the Emancipation Act. Back in the United States in 1835, Stuart's personal experience of antiabolitionist violence deflected criticism on the part of Americans suspiciousof meddling foreigners. Through Stuart's efforts, Gerrit Smith embraced immediatism in 1835. But as Barker demonstrates, Stuart's position on slavery, despitehis frequently immoderate language, remained essentially conservative. Duringthe late 1830s, he drifted away from the Garrisonians and gravitated towards menlike Smith, Beriah Green and James Birney. By 1840, Stuart's alignment with opponents of Garrison undermined support for radical abolition in Britishantislavery circles. As Stuart's support had opened doors for Garrison in 1833,his misgivings about ultraism closed them to agents of the American Antislavery Society in 1840 and afterwards. Barker's work required a careful piecing together of material from numerous archives on several continents. In contrast, a single bequest to Harvard's Houghton Library virtually mandated a new biography of Wendell Phillips.Jame~ Brewer Stewart has explored the wealth of personal detail contained in the Blagden papers and the result is a fresh and rewarding look at one of nineteenthcentury America's most famous orators. In Wendell Phillips: Liberty's Hero, Stewart has deepened and amplified our understanding of Phillips' personal philosophy, of his place in American abolitionism and of the unusual, butin Stewart's judgement, emotionally satisfying relationship between Phillips andhis...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 269-271
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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