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A NOTE ON THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE CASE OF OUR FELLOW-CREATURES (1784) By Patrick C. Lipscomb III and Edward C. Milligan* Among the writings ascribed to Anthony Benezet (1713-1784) is a pamphlet entitled The Case of Our Fellow-Creatures, tL· Oppressed Africans.1 The evidence for Benezet's authorship is, however, singularly lacking. A cursory inspection of the pamphlet itself shows that it was issued by the (London) Meeting for Sufferings of the Society of Friends and signed by "John Ady, Clerk to the Meeting for Sufferings."2 As to the author or authors who actually composed the pamphlet, the work itself is silent. George S. Brookes, however, in his biography Friend Anthony Benezet lists The Case of Our Fellow-Creatures as one of Benezet's works.3 Unfortunately, Brookes does not give any authority for his ascription. He may have derived it from Halkett and Laing,4 whose authority is Sabin.5 But Sabin gives no source for the ascription, merely citing a contemporary review of the pamphlet in The Gentleman's Magazine, which lists the pamphlet anonymously .6 * Since the writings of Anthony Benezet were read equally by English and American Friends, it is appropriate that this article should have been written by a transatlantic partnership: Patrick C. Lipscomb III, Assistant Professor of History at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Edward H. Milligan, Librarian of the Library of the Society of Friends, Friends House, London. 1 Society of Friends, London, Meeting for Sufferings, TL· Case of Our Fellow -Creatures, tL· Oppressed Africans, Respectfully Recommended to tL· Serious Consideration of tL· Legislature of Great Britain by tL· People called Quakers (London : Printed by James Phillips, 1783). The pamphlet was reprinted in 1784 by James Phillips, and also by Joseph Crukshank of Philadelphia. In 1792 the remaining copies of the two London printings were reissued at the instance of Meeting for Sufferings (Meeting for Sufferings, Minutes, XXXIX, 45, 63). 2 John Ady (1744?-1812) was not the clerk of the meeting in the sense generally understood, but the paid secretary or (in later terminology) Recording Clerk. He served in this capacity from 1783 to 1811. 3 George S. Brookes, Friend Anthony Benezet (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1937), pp. 197, 203. 4 Samuel Halkett and John Laing [and others], Dictionary ofAnonymous and Pseudonymous English Literature (new and enlarged edition; 7 vols.; Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1926-1934), VI, 305. 6 Joseph Sabin [and others], A Dictionary of Books Relating to America, from its Discovery to tL· Present Time (29 vols.; New York [and Portland, Maine]: Joseph Sabin [etc.], 1868-1936), II, 60. 6 TL· Gentleman's Magazine, LV, Pt. I (May, 1785), 377. 47 48Quaker History The evidence for Benezet's authorship would seem, therefore, to rest solely on Sabin's and Brookes's unsubstantiated ascriptions , and the whole problem of the authorship is thus open to question. To whom then should the pamphlet be ascribed? As the work itself gives the Meeting for Sufferings as the issuing body, one must turn for new light on the authorship to the extant manuscript records of that body, preserved at the Library of the Society of Friends, Friends House, London.7 It may be well to detail the steps that led to the publication of this pamphlet by the Meeting for Sufferings. The subject of slavery had occupied a good deal of attention at London Yearly Meeting in 1783, and the Meeting for Sufferings on 20 June 1783 appointed a large committee to give continuing attention to the subject.8 The minute book of this committee is extant (Friends House, London) and supplements the Meeting for Sufferings' minutes in showing what action was taken to bring the slavery question before influential members of church and state. Among the steps agreed upon was the preparation of a pamphlet. On 26 September 1783, John Lloyd and William Dillwyn were appointed by the Slave Trade Committee to "prepare a short address to the public on the subject of the slave trade."9 A draft of the address was presented to the committee on 3 October and referred to a sub-committee composed of John Wright, Thomas Knowles, and James Phillips,10...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 47-51
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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