Mar 25, 2021 - Sale 2562

Sale 2562 - Lot 34

Price Realized: $ 2,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,500 - $ 2,500
"WE FOUND THE NEGROES THE BEST PART OF SOCIETY" (SLAVERY AND ABOLITION.) James A. Whipple. Pair of letters from a radical abolitionist who toured Maryland and Virginia during the war. Autograph Letters Signed to brother Charles. Each 3 pages on a folding sheet; minimal wear. Hopedale and Worcester, MA, 1861-62

Additional Details

These letters were written by James Arnold Whipple (1808-1864), a mechanic who served as an officer of the Worcester Anti-Slavery Society. These two letters show a radical abolitionist who was eager to confront and defeat slaveowners--with his fists if necessary.

Whipple's first letter describes his visit to Washington on 24 December 1861 after his return to Hopedale, MA: "Tuesday eve attended president's levee. Saw many of the notables of Washington and pronounce Washington a great humbug, the dirtiest city I was ever in, and some of the meanest folks in the world live there. We all shook hands with old Abe. He looks honest, but does not seem to me to be verry smart. I see many men thare that are much smarter." He then got a pass from Vice President Hamlin to tour the front lines in Virginia, seeing "about one hundred and fifty thousand troops in all, going down as far as Falls Church and to Alexandria. Stood on the spot whare Ellsworth was shot. Could see with a glass the rebel pickets near Falls Church." On his trip, "had many discussions with slaveholders in Maryland and Washington. Come near fighting, but found they would back down at last. Found them armed generally. I carried no arms, but was readey for them any time, could handle any of them that I see. I told one man I could choke him to death in two minutes. He sneaked off with a pistol in his pocket. . . . We found the Negroes the best part of society, giveing the most intelligent answers and doing most all of the business." In closing he described the border region as "that God-forsaken country whare one man says he owns another."

His second letter, dated 27 March 1862 in Worcester, MA, reports on positive news: "I consider it some progress to have Dr. Cheever of New York, Gerritt Smith, Horace Greely and last though not least Wendell Phillips of Boston lecture in Washington and be heard by the president." He notes that Phillips was "mobbed in Cincinnati" across the river from Kentucky: "the poison virus of slavery is thare . . . it always wants to chrush out free speech, but the world moves and whether this war abolishes slavery or not immediately, it never can hold any power again."