Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lamont, A Lecture on the Civil War in America

I am always keen to acquire titles that offer foreign (chiefly European) views of the American Civil War. We recently acquired an interesting volume--James Lamont's "A lecture on the civil war in America / delivered at the Rothesay Mechanics' Institute" (Glasgow : Printed by W.A. Eadie, 1864.)

As evidenced by Lamont's armorial bookplate (J. Lamont of Knockdow), this was his personal copy, made even more interesting by the inclusion of a newspaper clipping mounted after page 30., advertising a "slave for sale" and also a reward for a runaway slave.

A search of a proper name in the text ("Martha Frazer") of the newspaper clipping (in America's Historical Newspapers, published by Readex) reveals that clipping was likely from the May 2, 1856 issue of the New Orleans Daily Picayune (p. 6; the same ads also appeared in issues of the same paper on May 8 and May 9, 1856)

In his lecture, Lamont noted his travels in the United States during 1856:

"When in the United States in 1856, I held a long conversation on the subject of slavery with a gentleman of Kentucky, a proprietor of many human chattels. He argued the question, unlike most slaveowners, in a temperate, gentlemanlike, and sensible manner, admitted that slavery was, in the abstract, a bad system and a great evil to the country, but could not see how it was to be done away with, without ruin and injury to many. I told him what I had seen in South America, and suggested that such a plan of gradual emancipation was the only way that I saw of meeting the difficulty. I regret to state that his reply was of such a nature that I cannot venture to repeat it, but it showed, as much as anything that ever came under my observation, the inveterate habit that even the refined and educated slaveowners invariably acquire, of regarding their slaves not as human beings, but as cattle, -- as beasts that perish."

One may surmise that Lamont saved the clipping from his 1856 travels and appended it to his copy.

Cornell University Library has digitized a copy of Lamont's lecture as part of their magnificent Samuel J. May Antislavery Collection.