This intriguing pamphlet features an open letter written by the Most Reverend Dr. Beilby Porteus (1731 – 1809), the Bishop of London and the President of the Society for the Conversion and Religious Instruction and Education of the Negro Slaves in the British West India Islands, addressed to the governors, legislatures and plantation owners of the British West Indian colonies.
Porteus forcefully argues that the slaves in those lands should receive education and be converted to Christianity. This was an incendiary viewpoint at the time, made in the immediate wake of the ban of the slave trade (1807), when West Indian planters were throwing their immense economic and political power towards preventing further erosion of the institution of slavery, the lifeblood of their industry. Educating slaves and bringing them into the Anglican community would further ‘humanize’ them in the eyes of both the British public and Member of Parliament, thus supporting the growing calls for Abolition.
While the Reverend makes it very clear that he is not taking a stand on the question of Abolition, he feels that his proposed measures are in line with core Christian principles. As it would turn out, works like the present pamphlet would play a critical role in chipping away at the ignoble institution until it was finally abolished across the British Empire in 1834.
The work is very rare; we can trace only 4 institutional examples, at the National Library of Jamaica; the Clements Library (Ann Arbor, Michigan); the Bodleian Library (Oxford) and at the National Library of Scotland.
References: Sabin, no. 64327; OCLC: 877398247.