2821. Robert Southey to William Wilberforce, 16 July 1816

2821. Robert Southey to William Wilberforce, 16 July 1816⁠* 

Keswick. 16 July. 1816

My dear Sir

There needs no apology for addressing you upon a subject connected with the Slave Trade, – but it should be so done as to occupy as little of your time as possible. – The abolition in Brazil [1]  can only be effected by popular opinion, – a friend of mine who has resided many years in that country, is very desirous of contributing to inform the public mind there, – which is this at this <time> very unfairly influenced by some of the Portugueze journals published in this country <England>. [2]  After much conversation upon the subject it has appeared to him & to me also that nothing could be so useful as to translate either wholly, or in an abridged form Clarksons History of the Abolition. [3]  This task he is perfectly competent to perform, & very would most willingly undertake. [4]  There is little doubt but that the sale in Brazil would repay the expence of the publication, – but his circumstances are not such as would allow him to incur the risque. He wants no remuneration, but he cannot afford loss. Will the African Society [5]  take upon itself the outlay? – if so, his labour is at their service.

I am grieved at the delay of the Registry Bill, & indignant at the conduct of its opponents. [6]  – Upon this point my zealous services shall not be wanting.

Believe me Sir

yours with sincere respect

Robert Southey.


* Endorsement: Southey Brazil/ Slave Trade – trans/lating Clarksons/ Histy of Abolition
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The slave trade was legal in Brazil until 1850 and slavery itself was not abolished until 1888. BACK

[2] The liberal Correio Braziliense (1808–1822), no. 3203 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, was anti-slave trade; but the more conservative papers, such as O Investigador Portuguez em Inglaterra (1811–1819), no. 3409 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, supported the trade. BACK

[3] Thomas Clarkson, The History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave–Trade by the British Parliament (1808). BACK

[4] Henry Koster argued the ‘Impolicy of the Slave Trade’ in his Travels in Brazil (London, 1816), pp. 445–456, and fully shared Southey’s abolitionist views. BACK

[5] The African Institution was set up in 1807 to ensure the abolition of the slave trade by Britain was carried out and to argue for the trade’s abolition by other countries. Wilberforce was a leading figure in the Institution. BACK

[6] Wilberforce had proposed a Registry Bill in 1815 to set up a register of all slaves in the British West Indies. It had been virulently opposed by the planters and they continued their opposition in 1816–1817. From 1817 onwards the West Indian colonies began passing their own local Registration Acts, though these were largely ineffective. BACK

People mentioned

Koster, Henry (1793–1820) (mentioned 1 time)
Clarkson, Thomas (1760–1846) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)