A Visit To The United States In 1841

Joseph Sturge
The United States In 1841

by Joseph Sturge
"'Tis liberty alone that gives the flower
Of fleeting life its lustre and perfume;
And we are weeds without it. All constraint,
Except what wisdom lays on evil men,
Is evil; hurts the faculties, impedes
Their progress in the road of science; blinds
The eyesight of discovery; and begets,
In those that suffer it, a sordid mind."

Within a few years past, several of our visitors from the other side of
the Atlantic, have published their views of our country and her
institutions. Basil Hall, Hamilton and others, in their attempts to
describe the working of the democratic principle in the United States,

have been unfavorably influenced by their opposite political
predilections. On the other hand, Miss Martineau, who has strong
republican sympathies, has not, at all times, been sufficiently careful
and discriminating in the facts and details of her spirited and agreeable
The volume of Mr. Sturge, herewith presented, is unlike any of its
predecessors. Its author makes no literary pretensions. His style, like
his garb, is of the plainest kind; shorn of every thing like ornament, it
has yet a truthful, earnest simplicity, as rare as it is beautiful. The
reader will look in vain for those glowing descriptions of American
scenery, and graphic delineations of the peculiarities of the American
character with which other travellers have endeavored to enliven and
diversify their journals. Coming among us on an errand of peace and
good will -- with a heart oppressed and burdened by the woes of
suffering humanity -- he had no leisure for curious observations of men
and manners, nor even for the gratification of a simple and unperverted
taste for the beautiful in outward nature. His errand led him to the
slave-jail of the negro-trafficker -- the abodes of the despised and
persecuted colored man -- the close walls of prisons. His narrative, like
his own character, is calm, clear, simple; its single and manifest aim, to
do good.
Although this volume is mainly devoted to the subject of emancipation,
and to his intercourse with the religious Society of which he is a
member, yet the friends of peace, of legal reform, and of republican
institutions, will derive gratification from its perusal. The liberal spirit
of Christian philanthropy breathes through it. The author's deep and
settled detestation of our slavery, and of the hypocrisy which sustains
and justifies it, does not render him blind to the beauty of the
republican principle of popular control, nor repress in any degree his
pleasure in recording its beneficent practical fruits in the free States.
The labors of Mr. Sturge in the cause of emancipation have given him
the appellation of the "Howard of our days." The author of the popular
"History of Slavery," page 600, thus notices his arduous personal
investigations of the state of things in the West India Islands, under the

apprenticeship system. "The idea originated with Joseph Sturge, of
Birmingham, a member of that religious body, the FRIENDS, who
have ever stood pre-eminent in noiseless but indefatigable exertions in
the cause of the negro; and who seem to possess a more thorough
practical understanding than is generally possessed by statesmen and
politicians, of the axiom that the shortest communication between two
given points, is a straight line.
While others were speculating, and hoping that the worst reports from
the West Indies might not be true, and that the evils would work their
own cure, this generous and heroic philanthropist, resolved to go
himself and ascertain the facts and the remedy required." On his return,
Mr. Sturge, with his companion, Thomas Harvey, published a full
account of their investigations into the working of the apprenticeship
system; and his testimony before the Parliamentary Committee,
occupied seven days. His disclosures sealed the fate of the
apprenticeship system. Such a demonstration of popular sentiment was
called forth against it, that the Colonies, one after another, felt
themselves under the necessity of abandoning it for unconditional
emancipation. It was a remark of Brougham, in the House of Lords,
that the abolition of the apprenticeship was the work of one man, and
that man was Joseph Sturge.
Mr. Sturge's benevolent labors have not been confined to the abolition
of slavery. He is a prominent member of the Anti-corn Law League. He
is an active advocate of the cause of universal peace. He has given all
his influence to the cause of the oppressed and laboring classes of his
own countrymen: and his name is at this moment, the rallying-word of
millions, as the author and patron of the "Suffrage Declaration," which
is now in circulation in all parts of the United Kingdom, pledging its
signers to the great principle
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