Autograph letter (June 24, 1845) signed ‘Joseph Sturge.’ Letter was written from Birmingham, addressed to an unknown ‘Esteemed Friend’, about parliamentary debates, with references to a speech by Sir Robert Peel (on the sugar question) and to the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. 3 pp. 6 x 4 inches, in good condition.
Interesting Note: Sophia Sturge, his beloved sister, died in June 1845. This sad fact may have been on his mind as he wrote. Among other things, Sophia Sturge had trudged to around 3,000 households in Britain personally, asking them not to eat slave-grown sugar. She was quite a warrior against the evils of slavery. Whittier wrote a poem about Sophia after her death. Sophia was the president of the British Complete Suffrage Association. She was the colleague, counselor, and ever-ready helpmate of her brother in all his vast designs of beneficence. The Birmingham Pilot says of her: "Never, perhaps, were the active and passive virtues of the human character more harmoniously and beautifully blended than in this excellent woman." Here is Whittier's poem to Joseph about Sophia Sturge:
Thine is a grief, the depth of which another
May never know;
Yet, o'er the waters, O my stricken brother!
To thee I go.
I lean my heart unto thee, sadly folding
Thy hand in mine;
With even the weakness of my soul upholding
The strength of thine.
I never knew, like thee, the dear departed;
I stood not by
When, in calm trust, the pure and tranquil-hearted
Lay down to die.
And on thy ears my words of weak condoling
Must vainly fall
The funeral bell which in thy heart is tolling,
Sounds over all!
I will not mock thee with the poor world's common
And heartless phrase,
Nor wrong the memory of a sainted woman
With idle praise.
With silence only as their benediction,
God's angels come
Where, in the shadow of a great affliction,
The soul sits dumb!
Yet, would I say what thy own heart approveth
Our Father's will,
Calling to Him the dear one whom He loveth,
Is mercy still.
Not upon thee or thine the solemn angel
Hath evil wrought
Her funeral anthem is a glad evangel,--
The good die not!
God calls our loved ones, but we lose not wholly
What He hath given;
They live on earth, in thought and deed, as truly
As in His heaven.
And she is with thee; in thy path of trial
She walketh yet;
Still with the baptism of thy self-denial
Her locks are wet.
Up, then, my brother! Lo, the fields of harvest
Lie white in view
She lives and loves thee, and the God thou servest
To both is true.
Thrust in thy sickle! England's toilworn peasants
Thy call abide;
And she thou mourn'st, a pure and holy presence,
Shall glean beside! -- By John G. Whittier
BACKGROUND: Joseph Sturge (1793–1859); Quaker philanthropist, son-in-law of James Cropper. Some of the earliest British and American anti-slavery speakers and writers were members of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers. The life and actions of Joseph Sturge exemplified in the nineteenth century the Quaker tradition of anti-slavery that George Fox, founder of the Friends, initiated in the seventeenth. Joseph Sturge was born in Gloucestershire in 1793 and died in Birmingham on May 1, 1859, after a life of radical political action supporting pacifism, working class rights, and the universal emancipation of slaves. Sturge succeeded admirably in pursuing radical goals through measured and diplomatic organizational behavior. He effectively directed popular protest toward achieving concrete steps in the long process of ending class oppression, whether it took the form of worldwide chattel slavery or wage slavery in Britain. He was one of the founders of the agency committee of the Anti-Slavery Society. When the Emancipation Act of 1834 was finally passed in Parliament, Sturge refused to let the 'apprenticeship' provision rest. ('Apprenticeship' was the widely criticized intermediate stage on the route to emancipation chosen by the British government.) Boldly he set out in person, with Thomas Harvey, to investigate apprenticeship on the spot. Between Nov 1836 and April 1837 he and Harvey traveled through the West Indies gathering evidence to demonstrate the flaws of the apprenticeship system. Everywhere they went they observed apprenticeship in action and talked directly to apprentices, overseers, stipendiary magistrates, and proprietors. In Antigua, where the local legislature bypassed apprenticeship, Sturge and Harvey found that freed people had achieved a social and economic condition far superior to that of Jamaica, where apprenticeship prolonged the wretchedness of slavery. Their book, The West Indies in 1837 (1838), exposed for a broad public the cruelty and injustice of apprenticeship. While he was in Jamaica, Sturge helped found the Jamaican free village of Sturgetown. He brought to London a Jamaican apprentice, James Williams, who described in his own words the brutality of his apprentice life. Williams's story touched his audiences and stirred up agitation against apprenticeship. Sturge used what we now call field research in order to demonstrate his hypothesis about apprenticeship. This research strategy, combined with his unflagging protest activity, succeeded in shortening the period of apprenticeship by a full two years. Fifteen months after Sturge¹s West Indian trip, nearly 800,000 men and women held in apprenticeship became fully free. He founded the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1839, and organized international anti-slavery conventions in 1840 and 1843. In 1841 he traveled through the United States with the poet J. G. Whittier, to observe the condition of the slaves there. On his return published A Visit to the United States in 1841 (1842). Sturge served as secretary of the Birmingham Anti-Slavery Society. A statue was erected in Birmingham in his honor after he died. The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (BFASS), founded in 1839 by Joseph Sturge, still survives today as Anti-Slavery International. Sturge worked tirelessly to organize popular action, even after seeing mass economic sanctions and boycotts fail. But he continued to trust the impact of altered individual feelings and ideologies. He put faith in the moral force of religion. In 1942 Joseph wrote, "Light and darkness, truth and falsehood, are not more in opposition than Christianity and slavery."
-- Joseph Sturge autograph -- 2 7/8 x 5 Page is hand signed in black ink pen.