Declaration of the Anti-Slavery Convention. Assembled in Philadelphia, December 4, 1833. William Lloyd Garrison, American Anti-Slavery Society.
Declaration of the Anti-Slavery Convention. Assembled in Philadelphia, December 4, 1833.
Declaration of the Anti-Slavery Convention. Assembled in Philadelphia, December 4, 1833.
Declaration of the Anti-Slavery Convention. Assembled in Philadelphia, December 4, 1833.
Declaration of the Anti-Slavery Convention. Assembled in Philadelphia, December 4, 1833.

Declaration of the Anti-Slavery Convention. Assembled in Philadelphia, December 4, 1833.

[Philadelphia:] Merrihew & Gunn, Printers, No. 7 Carter’s Alley, [1833]. Illustrated broadside on silk, 18.25” x 12”, plus margins.

An exceedingly rare broadside printing on silk of the American Anti-Slavery Society’s inaugural document, establishing the Society as the main activist arm of the American Abolition Movement which pushed for the immediate abolition of slavery in the U.S.

By 1830, slavery in America had shrunk from a national to a regional institution. However, while northern and middle U.S. states saw sharp declines in their numbers of slaves (via gradual abolition and immediate emancipation measures), the South’s reliance upon slave labor for production of its cash crops had only increased. Recognizing the need for continued reform on the abolitionist front, in December 1833 a group of northern abolitionists congregated in Philadelphia to establish the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS). Founded under the leadership of William Lloyd Garrison, the AASS (1833–1870) called for the immediate emancipation of all enslaved persons, and also rejected the use of violent resistance. Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown (ca. 1814–1884), both escaped slaves, often spoke at its meetings—Douglass being a key leader of the Society. By 1840, the Society had some 2,000 local chapters, with a total membership ranging between 150,000 and 200,000.

Issued by the AASS following their inaugural Philadelphia convention, this remarkable broadside calls for a “National Anti-Slavery Society” through promulgating a “Declaration of Sentiments.” Printed in two columns, the Declaration, written by Garrison, pointedly builds upon the spirit and principles of the American Revolution, and demands the immediate cessation of slavery throughout the entire United States. The text reads in part:

[W]e maintain—That in view of the civil and religious privileges of this nation, the guilt of its oppression is unequalled by any other on the face of the earth; and therefore, that it is bound to repent instantly … to break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free. … Therefore we believe and affirm—That there is no difference, in principle, between the African slave trade and American slavery.

Garrison’s text is surmounted by a wood-engraving by Reuben S. Gilbert (active 1833–1846). The classical illustration of Hercules and the Nemean lion is here powerfully repurposed to illustrate a verse from Psalm 91: “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.” Other Biblical texts also flank the illustration—from Matthew, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and so on. Outlined in the text are the Society’s goals of organizing local anti-slavery societies; circulating anti-slavery tracts; enlisting “the pulpit and the press in the cause”; encouraging “the labour of freemen rather than that of the slave”; and so forth. Bearing signatures in type by sixty convention delegates from New England, New York, the mid-Atlantic, and Ohio, the signers include such figures as John G. Whittier, William Lloyd Garrison, Robert Purvis, and James Mott, the husband of Lucretia Mott who—though not a delegate herself—addressed the convention.

Participants in AASS came primarily from religious circles, philanthropic backgrounds, as well as from the free black community. The society’s antislavery activities were frequently met with violent public opposition, mobs disrupting gatherings, assaulting speakers, and burning their publications. In 1839, the organization split over differences of approach—Garrison and his followers constituting the more radical of the two streams. The issue of antislavery entered mainstream U.S. politics through the Free-Soil Party (1848–54) and then the Republican Party (est. 1854). Following the Civil War and Emancipation, the AASS was formally dissolved in 1870.

Printers Merrihew & Gunn of Philadelphia are known to have published other abolitionist materials, such as An address delivered before the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society of Philadelphia… (1836) and An address delivered before the Junior Anti-slavery Society : of the City and County of Philadelphia, December 23, 1836 (1836).

Not in Threads of History.

An important founding document of the American abolitionist movement.

REFERENCES: American Anti-Slavery Society at britannica.com; Number of Slaves in the Territory Enumerated, 1790 to 1850 at teachingamericanhistory.org

CONDITION: Very good, edges folded under and lightly sewn to old linen backing; a beautiful, bright, well-preserved copy.

Item #5634

Price: $12,500.00