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Confronting Savery

Edward Coles and the Rise of the Nineteenth-Century America

Suzanne Cooper Guasco

Publication Year: 2013

Edward Coles, who lived from 1786-1868, is most often remembered for his antislavery correspondence with Thomas Jefferson in 1814, freeing his slaves in 1819, and leading the campaign against the legalization of slavery in Illinois during the 1823-24 convention contest.   

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. v-vii


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pp. ix-ix


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pp. xi-xii

Note on Illustrations

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pp. xiii-xv

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pp. xvii-xxi

Convention dictates that every author acknowledge the debts they have accumulated as they produced a book. Traditionally, as well, scholars insist that any failings or mistakes left uncorrected rest solely in the hands of the author. I am no different from anyone else. The book you are about to read is much better because of the generous help of many ...

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pp. 1-9

On a cold February day in 1862, Edward Coles opened the latest edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer only to discover that his son Roberts had been killed in the Battle of Roanoke Island. Initial reports were spare. Extracts republished from southern newspapers recorded only that a “Captain Coles” was “among the killed.” There was a chance that ...

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1. Becoming Antislavery

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pp. 10-37

In the winter of 1805, a young Virginian rode his horse down Williamsburg’s deserted Duke of Gloucester Street and viewed the remnants of a once-vibrant capital. The town’s residents remained closed inside the many buildings that lined the main thoroughfare, protected from the cold December weather. At one end of the main street lay the old capital ...

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2. Antislavery Ambition Deferred

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pp. 38-70

On a cold winter morning in January 1810, Edward Coles sat at a desk in the parlor at Enniscorthy and contemplated how best to respond to President James Madison’s request that he serve as his private secretary. He could recall the many evenings when Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe had joined his father and brothers to discuss politics ...

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3. Pioneering Antislavery Politics

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pp. 71-104

In early April 1819, thirty-two-year-old Edward Coles and his enslaved property journeyed from Pittsburgh to Harrod’s Creek, a settlement just ten miles above Louisville, Kentucky, by floating down the beautiful Ohio River. Encountering a “good tide of water, and remarkably fine weather,” they completed the second leg of their trip to Edwardsville, Illinois, in ...

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4. Crafting an Antislavery Nationalism

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pp. 105-133

On the cold, blustery evening of February 13, 1823, Edward Coles sat before a cozy fire in the governor’s residence in Vandalia, Illinois, astonished by the recent turn of events. The day before, two-thirds of the state legislature had passed a resolution calling for a convention to revise the state’s consti-tution, the first step in a scheme to legalize slavery. As he sat pondering the ...

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5. Antislavery Reform Denied

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pp. 134-164

In late December 1827, just days before Christmas, Edward Coles sat alone in his boarding-house room in Edwardsville, Illinois. A week earlier he had turned forty-one, and in a few days the holiday would arrive. “The whole face of nature,” he mournfully reported to his niece in Virginia, “has been covered with snow, . . . sleet, & ice.” It was “as gloomy a ...

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6. Antislavery Aspirations Redirected

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pp. 165-195

On the evening of November 28, 1833, forty-six-year-old Edward Coles stood nervously in the parlor of Philadelphian Roberts Vaux, his good friend and antislavery ally from the Illinois convention contest. The room was crowded with guests, most of whom were prominent residents of the city. To Coles’s delight, the company also included several southerners, among them ...

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7. Antislavery Nationalism Resurrected

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pp. 196-230

In early September 1848, Edward Coles received an interesting letter from Philadelphia’s ex-mayor Benjamin W. Richards. “You cannot fail to observe with lively interest,” declared the Free-Soil Democrat, “the rapid progress . . . of the Free Soil party, who have come forward to resist the extension of slavery.” Richards’s observation was timely; for the nation ...

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pp. 231-237

In the summer of 1864, more than three years after the beginning of armed hostilities between the North and South, fifteen thousand Philadelphians attended the opening ceremonies for the Great Central Fair. For more than six months, the members of the executive committee and thousands of volunteers on hundreds of specialized committees had ...


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pp. 239-239


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pp. 241-284


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pp. 285-293

E-ISBN-13: 9781609090821
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875806891

Page Count: 265
Illustrations: 12 halftones
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 864685574
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Confronting Savery

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Coles, Edward, 1786-1868.
  • Antislavery movements -- Illinois -- History -- 19th century.
  • Antislavery movements -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Abolitionists -- Illinois -- Biography.
  • Governors -- Illinois -- Biography.
  • Illinois -- Politics and government -- To 1865.
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