Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The American Republic Before the World

By day, I am the associate editor of the Harriet Jacobs Papers. Jacobs was a nineteenth-century woman who was born a slave. After her escape, she became involved with the abolitionist community in the Northeast and wrote a book about her experiences, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. One of the things I find most interesting--and, honestly, most disturbing--about my job is the way in which the concerns and rhetoric of the abolitionists sound so relevant today.

The following was published 15th Annual Report of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1847 in response to the Mexican-American War:

"The attitude of the American Republic before the world is signally changed since we last attempted to describe it. It has outstripped our swiftest prophecies in its career in crime. What we then only ventured to forebode as distant contingencies, have become part of our national history.”

Sound familiar?

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