1773 Ironic Newspaper with Anti-Slavery Letter on One Side and Offer to Buy Slaves on the Other

1773 Newspaper with Anti-Slavery Letter on One Side and Offer to Buy Slaves on the Other


[SLAVERY]. Supplement to The Boston Evening Post, April 26, 1773. Boston: Thomas Fleet and John Fleet. 2 pp., 9.5" x 14.75"  Missing 3.5" x 1" piece in lower right corner of p1 with loss of five lines of text.


This supplement features a lengthy letter, dated January 14, 1773, in response to John Marsham’s article of September 7, 1772, justifying racial slavery and the slave trade. The author denies that the Bible sanctions the racial slavery currently practiced toward Africans.


Ironically, among the advertisements on the reverse is this one:




Any Persons who have healthy Slaves to dispose of, Male or Female, that have been some Years in the Country, of 25 Years of Age or under, may be informed of a Purchaser by applying to the Printers. (p2/c3)




“I find several [commentators] who suppose personal guilt in Canaan, that he was a partner with his father in his crime, which fully countenances my opinion, and suggests a sufficient reason for the entail of the curse on him and his posterity to the exclusion of all Ham’s other children.” (p1/c1)


“they were indeed innocent of any disrespect to Noah, which was Ham’s sin, but they were guilty of impiety and idolatry and other abominations—which consideration fully vindicates the justice of God in punishing them....” (p1/c2)


“As the curse or prophecy concerning Canaan stands in the scripture, nothing can be concluded from it, either for or against the lawfulness of any man’s reducing the people to a state of slavery.... Mr. M...allows that stealing and murder—are an abuse of the African slave trade, consequently not to be justified.” (p1/c2)


“If a nation cannot be reduced to a state of slavery so as to be bought and sold, without war, and that war is not authorized by the curse, it must seek some other justification: If there is no divine warrant, no injury received, which the law of nations deems a justifiable cause, the war is unlawful, and all who are so unhappy as to become prisoners and slaves by means of it, are unjustly deprived of their freedom.” (p1/c2)


“they will go but a very little way to prove the negroes to be the descendants of Canaan, rather than any other of Ham’s posterity. But if it could be ever so fairly proved that they were so, there must be produced first an evidence of the perpetuity of the curse, and that it must follow them into the ends of the earth, and then a divine warrant for us to deprive them of their natural liberty by force, or else we shall never be able lawfully to claim and use them as our property.” (p1/c3)


“Our divine Master has taught us to regard all mankind as our neighbours, and love them as we do ourselves, to sympathize and relieve them in their distresses, and even to deny ourselves in some cases for the comfort and happiness of our fellow-men.” (p1/c3)


“so long as that gospel command...Masters give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also yourselves have a master in heaven, stands upon record, unrepealed, I cannot see how it can be proved that the gospel contains ‘not a bare permission, but justification’ of slavery. If this command has any meaning or any force, what is it less than a prohibition of slavery in the manner in which it is carried on with regard to the Africans.” (p1/c3)


Historical Background:


On September 7, 1772, the Boston Evening-Post published an essay on the right of enslaving Africans by a writer using the pseudonym “John Marsham,” continued it in the September 21 issue, and concluded it in the September 28 edition.


In his original essay, Marsham declared, “I affirm that Slavery for wise Reasons is of divine Institution, that God Almighty has expressly and by solemn Repetition separated a particular Part of Mankind to be in that Condition, and that this People (wherever they be, and whoever they are) have been, are now, and ever will be under that Curse, a Curse as absolute and irrevocable as any in the Bible.” Marsham goes on to repeat the story of the curse of Ham, the son of Noah, whom God cursed and declared “that they shall be Servants of Servants to their Brethren.” Confident that “Africa was settled by Ham and his Descendants,” Marsham was certain that “Consequently the People who as his Descendants are perpetually subjected to this Curse, must be looked for on this Continent.” Marsham also argues that “Our general Notions of Freedom and the Rights of Mankind are wholly out of the present Question. They only tend to confuse and mislead weak Minds.”


This piece called forth responses from “Commiserator Africanorum” and “Y.” in the September 21 issue, “M. Cato” in the September 28 issue, “Humanity” in the October 5 issue, and “A. X.” in the November 30 issue. Marsham, in turn, responded to his critics in the September 28, October 12, and October 19 issues.


The letter printed in this Supplement is by one of the authors of the responses to Marsham’s article.


Though it has some ancient roots, the use of the “curse of Ham” as a biblical justification for slavery became increasingly common during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to justify the slave trade.


Additional Content:


This issue also includes a notice of the Harvard College Lottery, in which organizers hoped to sell 10,000 tickets at $6 each to raise $11,340 for the construction of a new building (p2/c1); and numerous other notices and advertisements.


The Boston Evening-Post (1735-1775) was a weekly newspaper published in Boston by Thomas Fleet (1685-1758) that developed a reputation for being the best in Boston at the time. After his death, Fleet’s sons Thomas Fleet (1732-1797) and John Fleet (1734-1806) published the Evening-Post until April 1775, when the Revolutionary War brought it to an end.


This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.



Item: 65070

Price: $750.00
Click above for larger image.