Harriet Martineau was born at Guerney Court House, Magdeline Street, Norwich to a staunch Unitarian family. It was this Unitarian foundation that shaped her and even later in adult life, when she came to reject this faith, the values of justice, education for all including women, concern for the poor and suffering, anti-slavery, and freedom to think for oneself rather than adherence to doctrine, and rational thinking remained a bedrock of her approach to life and to her writing.
Harriet’s paternal ancestors had come over to England following the French Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which resulted in many Protestant/Huegenot families being exiled throughout Europe at the end of the seventeenth century. Her mother’s family, sugar refiners, from Newcastle were the Rankins, members of the Hanover Square Unitarians, during the time of Rev William Turner’s sixty year ministry. It would be on a visit to Newcastle that Harriet ‘caught religion’ from William Turner and his daughter.
Being the sixth of eight children Harriet grew up feeling neglected. She felt that no one understood her or responded to her needs, particularly her mother. She was religious from a very early age, yet even then questioned the divine judgement of a kind God. She asked why ministers preached only of the responsibility of children to their parents and inferiors to superiors. What about parents’ responsibility to children? She never understood why Unitarians still considered themselves to be Christian, and put it down to slovenly thinking.
Her parents focussed their thoughts and finances on ensuring that all of their children were educated well. Up until the age of eleven she was taught Maths, Latin, English, French and reading by older brothers and sister. At the age of eleven, Rev Isaac Perry opened a day school to which Harriet and her older sister Rachel went. Previously school work had been a chore but here the love of learning was nurtured. In the two years the school was open she appreciated Rev Perry’s teaching of composition and realised that she wanted to write. Sadly it was during these two years that her ongoing deafness deteriorated.
Even at a young age Harriet was aware of the politics and religion of the day through reading the family’s newspapers, The Globe and the Unitarian Monthly Repository. Matters of the day would be talked of within the family.
On the closure of Rev Perry’s school Harriet and her sister’s education continued under the guidance of private tutors. Even so, Harriet grew into an angry teenager and admitted to herself that she was difficult. In 1818 she was sent to Bristol to live with her Aunt Kentish and family and it was here she discovered love and warmth denied to her at home. It wasn’t through the formal education at the school run by her uncle that her education broadened but through the exchanges within the family and especially her cousins. Reverend Carpenter, a charismatic minister, fuelled Harriet’s religious fervour. She later saw this period in her religious life as being based on pastor worship, something that can easily occur at that impressionable age.
Discovering her vocation
Harriet returned from Bristol and lived at Norwich until 1832. However, she had reached the age when expectations for Harriet were as for other young middle class women of that period. She became an accomplished seamstress and housekeeper. Her self-motivation to learn hadn’t been quenched and she would sew during the day and study late into the night by candlelight. During this period her questioning nature obliged her to address the dilemmas presented in her understanding of religion. Her relationship with her younger brother, James, had always been close, and it was at this period that he would return from Manchester College, now based at York, and discuss many of the things he had learned. He became his sister’s oracle. One day he dropped out the doctrine of necessity as proposed by Joseph Priestley. On reading Priestley Harriet became less anxious in the new understanding of a universe based on general laws, cause and result, and rationality. This new understanding gave new vigour to Harriet.
In 1821 she had early aspirations to be an author and wrote Female Writers on Practical Divinity for the Monthly Repository signing it as V of Norwich. On reading the article James not knowing that his sister had written this expressed to the family the strength of this new writer. On admitting it was her work he said: ‘Now dear, leave it to other women to make shirts and darn stocking, and do you devote yourself to this’. This Harriet did, writing devotional work and other articles.
Her life could have been very different if she had married. A college friend of James’s became engaged to Harriet but developed a severe mental health problem and died, probably suicide. Later in life she claimed to be: ‘the happiest single woman in Britain’ and felt she had had a close escape.
In 1824 her surgeon brother died. Her father never got over it and following the bank crash and resulting failing of the business he too died in 1826. The family situation changed and in 1827 all their money was lost. Unlike her sister, Harriet could not be employed as a governess because of her increasing deafness. She recognised that she must be paid for all the writing she was doing for the Monthly Repository. Mr Fox, the editor, agreed to pay her £15 p.a. and this together with money she earned from sewing allowed her to be independent, although still living at home. She wrote short stories for penny tracts with titles such as Machine Breakers. Jane Marcet told Harriet that she was writing political economy without knowing it. This gave Harriet the idea of writing a series of short stories illustrating political economy, which would introduce to society that which was believed to be too complicated for the public in general.
Harriet’s writing career is launched
In the meantime the Central Unitarian Association advertised a competition for three prize essays that promoted Unitarianism to the Catholic, Jew and Islam traditions. Prize money of 10, 15 and 30 guineas was offered for the best essays. Harriet set to work and wrote: The Essential Faith of the Universal Church: The Faith as Manifested through Israel: The Faith as Unfolded by many Prophets. She won all three prizes giving financial stability to pursue the researching and writing of a series of stories to be published monthly, under the collective title Illustrations of Political Economy.
This was no easy undertaking. Relationships with her mother continued to be stressful as even in adulthood Harriet had to be obedient to her wishes. However, if Harriet wished to follow through her plan then she needed to be in London. It was almost impossible to break through into what was considered the male domain of political economy and finding a publisher pushed her to the brink of a physical breakdown. She trudged the London streets trying to find a publisher and in the end the brother of the editor of The Monthly Repository, Charles Fox, agreed to publish but if at the end of a fortnight 1,000 copies had not been sold the scheme would be abandoned. Ten days after publication on 10th February 1832, all copies were sold out and reprints had to be done. From that time Harriet did not have worry again about money or shortage of work. Although the stories were written for popular reading they were approached scientifically, using a structure of production, distribution, exchange and consumption. She went on to write 34 volumes in two and a half years. The stories were written with a view to those who suffered and were based on true life. Politicians approached her to take up specific causes. She wrote about machinery and wages, taxation, prison reform, poor laws, banking, slavery and other issues of the day. Being unafraid of adverse comments Harriet accepted both fame and ignominy being appreciated one minute and berated the next. She aimed for fairness after dispassionately considering the research gathered. Invitations came in from European leaders but later stories resulted in her being banned from travelling there for several years.
For the two and a half years of work she received only £2,000 but in the process became very famous and in demand. Her two old ladies moved to London and unsuccessfully tried to persuade Harriet to live in a larger house and mix socially. However, Harriet was never interested in money or fame as long as she had sufficient to live modestly. She disliked being lionised at literary gatherings and wrote of this later in her life in: Age of Celebrity. Her mother wanted to benefit from the fame and status her daughter had attained causing an added stress to what was already a full life for Harriet. Living with deafness already meant difficulties mixing at social events, Harriet preferring one-to-one exchanges and during these years developed friendships with many famous people amongst which was the scientist Mary Somerville. Already Harriet had begun to think of herself as a scientist of society and appreciated the company of another scientist.
Harriet had set her mind on visiting America and as soon as the last instalment of Illustrations of Political Economy was completed having extended the original remit with four stories about the reform of the Poor Law, requested by Lord Brougham, she prepared for the long voyage. Many requests to write about her experiences in America were made by publishers but she declined. She wanted to be free to make her own decisions and feel under any obligations to write for a specific project.
In August of 1834, Harriet with a companion, embarked on a long sea voyage. Not until 1838 was steam introduced. The slavery controversy was beginning to stir and Harriet’s anti-slavery views were clearly known on this matter already, having written Demerara earlier in her career. (For a detailed account of her time in America refer to Fictional Letters to Harriet Martineau in America.)
During her time in America she had written a personal journal. On arriving home she used the material to write Society in America, which she had wanted to publish as: ‘Theory and Practice of Society in America’ but her publisher, Mr Saunders felt that the shorter title would appeal to readers much better. In 1838 her book Retrospect of Western Travel proved to be more popular.
Stress, illness and religious breakthrough
Harriet’s home life became more stressful as her mother’s sight deteriorated. The toll on Harriet’s health was great but in spite of this she continued to write numerous articles before beginning the novel, which she had wanted to write for some time. Even in this she broke new ground in fictional writing. Instead of it being peopled by lords and ladies, as the reading public expected, Deerbrook had a middle-class setting, the heroine being from Birmingham and the hero a surgeon. The book was started in June 1838 and published before Easter the following year. However, overwork and domestic stress obliged Harriet to take a holiday in Scotland, the North of England and the Lake District before touring Europe, where she became very ill and had to be brought home before being taken to stay with her brother-in-law in Newcastle, who was a doctor. Her aunt died and her mother went to live with her family in Liverpool. Harriet succumbed to her illness thought to be caused by a tumour. Soon though she moved to Tynemouth, not too far for her brother-in-law to visit, and was looked after by a 14 year old called Jane. Here she remained until 1845. These were years of peace for Harriet. Several members of her family and friends had died leading her to a morbid state and questioning the cruelty of divine government. However, she did continue to write. Life in the Sick Room was quickly written but in later years she recognised the morbidity of mind running throughout and wasn’t proud of this work. During her European tour she had visited the prison and grave of Toussaint L’Ouverture, which now prompted her to write a second novel, The Hour and the Man, based on his life as a slave in Haiti, who became a wise leader of both black and white in society, until the French reclaimed the country during a bitter civil war, forgetting the earlier policy of equality and freedom. Toussaint L’Overture was deposed and taken to France where he suffered a miserable imprisonment and death. The Playfellow, was a publication of children’s tales. For many this would seem a full writing schedule even when well so it is an indication of her continuing intellectual energy, that publications continued to stream from her pen.
Harriet Martineau wasn’t forgotten even in her absence from the London scene. Florence Nightingale wrote and ministered to her. The government offered her a pension, which she declined, not wanting her freedom to be curtailed. Her friends raised £1,400 through a Testamonial Fund.
It was in these years that she made a religious leap of faith becoming a philosophical atheist, believing that no revelation could understand what was beyond human faculties. Hearing of the new thinking on mesmerism as a possible cure and considering it to be a scientific breakthrough, she began treatment and in a few months felt herself to be cured. This practice offended many in her family, none more so than her beloved brother James. Through mesmerism a friendship grew between Mr Atkinson and Harriet and over the next few years they met and corresponded on the nature of God and man, together publishing their letters in 1851: Letters on Mesmerism. James wrote a scathing review and the split between brother and sister became irrevocable. Harriet, like Mr Atkinson believed that ‘God is with us in all Nature; if we will but read the written law; written not on tablets of stone, but on the wide expanse of nature. The Bible is a dead letter. God is truth, law, morals, noble deeds of heroism, conscience, self-sacrifice, love, freedom and cheerfulness.
Harriet moves to the Lake District
On recovery Harriet with Jane, moved to the Lake District, building a new house in Ambleside she named ‘The Nook’. William Wordsworth a neighbour, along with his daughter helped her to design the new garden. Appropriately she inscribed on her new sun-dial ‘Come Light Visit Me’ indicating not only her wish for the garden but her continuing search for understanding and intellectual growth. The years that followed were the happiest of her life. Friends met in America visited, including Emerson as well as friends closer to home including Charlotte Bronte.
Almost before she had the opportunity to settle in her new home, friends, Mr and Mrs Yates, invited her to accompany them on their Eastern travels. So less than a year following her recovery from years of illness she embarked on an eight month trip that gave her the opportunity to meditate and see for herself first-hand the birthplace of religions she had only read of and written about before. Naturally she wrote her account of this visit on her return: Eastern Travel.
Although becoming a ‘Laker’ Harriet continued to be interested in national and local politics both past and present, writing A Complete Guide to the Lakes: History of the Peace: A History of the Half Century: plus articles for the Daily News. In fact she continued to increase her journalism moving from the initial weekly leader for the Daily News to six each week. Following articles on the different manufacturing industries in Birmingham she was in demand by other northern manufacturing cities.
Harriet was more than just a writer though, she recognised the need for practical expression of the values motivating her writing. Each winter for many years she presented a series of lectures for workers in the area. The gentry were excluded from the lectures as all the available space was required by the interested labourers. This is an incredible achievement by someone who could hear little and had to rely on others to tell her whether she could be heard. Her lectures on sanitation and public health, including the dangers of too much alcohol, were accompanied with illustrations. Recognising the power of landlords to evict workers from their rented homes for as little as not attending the same church as the landlord, she introduced a building society, bought several lots of land and organised the building of houses that the workers could buy for themselves. Closer to home she became interested in developing the farming potential of the land she had bought along with the house, employing a labourer. She was never to be short of milk, cream, butter, eggs and meat from that time forward.
In 1845 when the potato famine was pending she wished to draw public attention to a system of agriculture that was detrimental to the farming class. The method she used was the same as when she wrote Illustrations of Political Economy. All relevant material was collected and advice sought from interested politicians. This resulted in three volumes entitled: Forest and Game Laws being published. Although she made no money from this venture she had no regrets.
Harriet became interested in the writing of August Comte, who related philosophy to the intellectual and social needs of the time. Although by this time she began to feel unwell again she worked on a translation of his Philosophie Positive. This was to be more than a translation, rather an explanation of the book and was published in 1853. Comte considered it to be so good that on having it translated from her English edition used it with his students as well as for public reading. Harriet got great satisfaction from this work as much as anything she had ever done. The profits were shared three ways between Comte, Harriet and publisher Mr Chapman. Many religious writers, often without reading it, were very critical. They felt that the science of human nature could only be a threat to theology.
Harriet had learned very early in her time at the Lakes that the summer was too busy with tourists so rented her home out for those months and travelled, particularly spending time in London where she could meet people and research material.
However, this did not prevent her becoming very ill again. She was told by doctors in London that her heart was enlarged and she may well not have long to live. She returned to Ambleside and prepared for her death with good friends around her. She no longer had any fear of illness and death. She began writing her autobiography to be published when she died. In fact these years were the most content and happiest of her life. Unexpectedly she lived for a further, very productive 21 years. Her ongoing support for the anti-slavery movement in America continued, needlework and embroidery as well as writing in support of the cause. She continued to lecture, campaigned for votes for women, education and the formation of Bedford College for women, even before Josephine Butler became leader of the movement to ban the Contagious Disease Act, Harriet wrote in order to bring attention to the injustices it caused in the lives of women – all this as well as the continued articles written for the Daily News.
Typical of the woman is her own obituary written by her and to be published in the Daily News after her death:
Her original power was nothing more than was due to earnestness and intellectual clearness within a certain range. With small imaginative and suggestive powers and therefore nothing approaching genius. She could see clearly what she did see and give a clear expression to what she had to say. In short she could popularise while she could neither discover nor invent. (1876)
The above only gives only a glimpse into the volumes of writing and number of famous figures of the day known well by this influential nineteenth century writer. Unitarians today can celebrate her courage in questioning the religious status-quo even within the Unitarian movement itself. She stands out as a woman of integrity, standing up for the poor and for those suffering from discrimination of sex or colour of skin, breaking new ground in a scientific understanding of society (social sciences). She wrote because she felt she had to, not because she curried favour, fame or fortune, although she did work to be independent and able to write what she believed needed to be written.
Would she find room in the movement today is a question I would like to pose? Do we not believe that Unitarians always encourage a personal questioning of life and religion? Would we make her welcome? I know what my answer would be.
The material for this essay is drawn from Volumes 1 and 2 of Harriet Marineau’s Autobiography as well as general reading both on and off the Internet.
Harriet Marineau’s Autobiography: Volume 1 – with introduction by Maria Weston Chapman published by Smith, Elder, & Co 1877 and reproduced by Bibliobazaar (www.bibliobazaar.com/ opensource )
Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography: Volume 2 – with a new introduction by Gaby Weiner published as a Virago edition offset from Smith, Elder & Co 1877.
Fictional Letters to Harriet Martineau in America
Letter to Harriet Martineau 1
Norwich , July 1834
My Dear Friend Harriet,
How delighted I was to read your letter received only yesterday. I am writing this in some haste so that it will arrive with you before embarking on your voyage to America. What a stir your recent success has caused in the town, everyone is talking about it. Even though we all recognised your talents as a regular contributor to The Monthly Repository and been little surprised at your success on winning the three major prizes in the prestigious Unitarian essay competition, we would never have thought that our own Harriet would go on to shake the literary and political world, becoming a professional writer and independent woman in the process. It makes me dizzy to think of my Harriet being sought out by government ministers to advise on the Reform Bill and to hear that she is now lionized by London society. I was glad to hear that James Mill now recognises that he was in error advising that your plans to convey political theory in story form could not work on such a complex subject. Many newspapers write of the gratitude the country now owes you in having made the mysteries of political economy accessible to intelligent citizens everywhere.
My brother John and I are a little concerned though that your extended travels through America might be dangerous following the reception of Illustrations of Political Economy, especially the way in which you exposed, in Demerara, the intense human suffering caused by the irrational system of slavery which wastes both capital and human labour. We were greatly relieved to read that our mutual friend, Mrs J…, had agreed to be your travelling companion on this expedition. Even with a fair wind I believe the voyage will take at least a whole month and probably more so it is good to know that you won't be bereft of good company and that J.., who understands your deafness, will be able to act as a sensitive interpreter in the event that you find yourself without your ear trumpet. I am sure her advice will be invaluable should you encounter any difficulties arising from your outspoken attacks on slavery.
I shall always remember those sad years after your father's death when you tirelessly worked at your needlework, contributing what you could to the family income. The hours we sat quietly together, working, I will remember with affection. Even then I discerned that your literary talent and passionate commitment to social justice might take you away from old friends. Whilst to your family it seemed you were a 'woman against the world' to me, your dear friend from childhood, you will always be remembered as a woman passionately committed to making this world a more just and equitable place, where all may be free and all may have access to a good education; rich and poor, man and woman, white and black.
Even though you are following your own conscience as to what you must do, your family are finding it hard to accept your rejection of many long held Unitarian beliefs to a scientific and freethinking approach to life and to your writing. Although I do not share your new scientific ideas on social and political matters I do know and love you for the honesty which is the basis on which our friendship has been built over many years and for this reason would hope that you will always choose to confide in me, your dear friend.
You will be pleased to hear that shortly John is to be married. Although C… is a delightful young lady I fear that my position here, keeping house for John, will be less enjoyable than in the past. Until hearing this news I was quite happy in my situation but cannot now feel anything but unsettled as to my future. In such a situation, as I now find myself, I shall look forward all the more to receiving your letters written in that conversational style and spirit which is so distinctively yours. Do write and send news as soon as you arrive to let me know that you have survived the perilous voyage without suffering too badly on what will always seem to me a dangerous undertaking for a single woman of thirty-two and female companion to make without the protection of a brother or husband.
I wish you a fair wind and safe journey,
Your Affectionate Friend,
Letter to Harriet Martineau 2
Norwich , August 1835
My Dear Friend Harriet,
You must think me a poor correspondent but for these past few months I had begun to think the worst, that something terrible had befallen you. It was with much relief therefore that I received, only last week, first one letter and then a second close on its heels.
Forty-two days on board the United States must have been a severe test, not only of your patience but also your courage. You paint a wonderful picture of your excellent captain trying to placate Mrs S… and her two daughters at every turn. Perhaps on their next voyage they too will make sure they have warm and suitable clothing for the extreme and changeable conditions. What secret satisfaction you must have felt on arrival when there was little to distinguish the faded and worn state of your sea clothes to the previously gorgeous attire of the other ladies. How disgraceful too that they should demand milk for the cat even on days when the two cows were dry following the trauma of the storms. Thank goodness you managed to arrive safely, albeit late, before rations ran out. Your captain must be a saint as I feel sure others would have had the crew member whipped for carelessly leaving open the door of the ice-house.
I'm not entirely sure that it was a blessing, as you say, that the captain wasn't fully aware of the situation and high feelings which are now beginning to grip American society on the slavery question, otherwise he would never have allowed you to disembark. I can imagine your annoyance on finding that during your stay in New York you had been kept in a state of profound ignorance along with the other women. On reading your second letter I have to admit that I will not feel happy until you are safely returned home.
There is some comfort in knowing that your new Unitarian friends are taking good care of you. Even though your intent has always been to observe the situation as an examination of society in America, I do hope that you are considering carefully the dangers of becoming to friendly with anyone from the Abolitionist Party. You must avoid all those who go so far as to incite slaves to murder their masters. The terrible things that are happening in the name of gaining freedom from slavery must pain you greatly.
I know how difficult you find it to compromise when you believe something so ardently, but please consider carefully what you say and to whom whilst you are so far away from home. There are bound to be many like the lady you met in Philadelphia who find your independence of mind and your high regard in certain circles a little hard to accept. Mrs J… was clearly trapped into acknowledging that you would not interfere to prevent a young person known to you from marrying a negro but for you to insist that it was no place of yours to interfere or advise, and to point out the increasing mulatto element of the population must have offended this high minded lady. That your remarks have now been made common knowledge through newspapers as far away as Boston, where you plan to visit next, can only make the remainder of your time in America more perilous. I do hope you change your plans to meet with Abolitionists to find out for yourself whether there is any substance to the accusations of violence and cruelty made against them. The moderation of the Colonisationists is surely a much safer course to take even though you are impressed with the apparent non-fanaticism of your new Abolitionist friends, Mr Loring and Dr and Mrs Follen. I only hope that when you get to Boston your hosts Dr Walker and Dr Channing will advise caution.
The impudence of Maria Weston Chapman is beyond belief and I am glad to hear that you responded sharply to the suggestion that you have been beguiled by the slave holders. I hope for both your sakes that your paths won't cross during your stay in Boston.
I shall look forward, with some trepidation, to hearing of your exploits in Boston. Although your plight worries me greatly your letters have given me some respite from considering my own future which in comparison is very dull indeed.
John and C… were finally married in February and we have just learned that there is to be a new addition to the family. Although John tells me that this should make no difference to me and that I will always have a home with them, I do not feel that this sentiment is shared by C… The change in status from keeping house to being a dependent female relative is stark and I feel it greatly. John used to confide in me and we would spend many pleasant hours in each others company whereas now I feel a stranger in what has always been my home. I had anticipated that the situation might be difficult whilst at the same time hoping that C… and I could come to love each other as sisters. My hopes are dashed and I am now faced with a difficult decision between two unsatisfactory situations. I could stay here or accept an invitation to be companion to Mrs H… who you will remember as being selfish and demanding, unable to keep even the best tempered and most patient of companions for any length of time.
Whilst your life is endangered by excitement and daring I am in danger of being driven insane by the limitations and strictures all around me. When you read this think only of me reading religious tracts to Mrs H… for as you know she can't abide novels. Do write and tell me all about Boston. You should address your letters here as John will make sure that they are sent to me as I am still hopeful of a better position than that of Mrs H…
Your Affectionate Friend,
Letter to Harriet Martineau 3
Derbyshire , November 1836
It was with delight I received your letter and journal which John forwarded to me here in Derbyshire. I was greatly relieved to learn that you had returned to England safely, especially not having heard from you for such a long time. From what you write it is clear that you have been extremely fortunate to have survived relatively unscathed, the last six months in America.
Life has taken a surprising turn and for the better. Reverend William S…, a visiting Minister to the Octagon Chapel and an old friend of John's, came to visit and on being asked to extend his stay spent several weeks with John and C… In that time we came to know each other well and a friendship quickly developed between us. William's dearest wife, Susan, had recently died in giving birth to their third child and I was pleased to give him comfort during that difficult time. He has three dear children, the eldest William Junior is barely four years old, Elizabeth, two, is an angel and poor little Susan is now nine months, a frail baby after a poor start but now beginning to gain strength and health. Although his sister seemed very happy to care for the children, William, grieving as he was, dearly wanted to take the children back home. So it was that before he returned to Derbyshire he asked whether I would marry him and be mother to his children. The decision was very easy as I had come to respect and admire William very much and I had been growing increasingly anxious as to what my future was to be. In May he returned to Norwich where we were married before returning to Derbyshire where I met his sister and his children. I have had no regrets as William's sister J…loves me like her own sister and living close by in the village we are together often. The children were happy to return home, although it did take a little while for them to accept that their mother was no longer there and I was now to be their new mother. We do have a girl from the village living in and she is good with the children and a great help in the house. Her mother, who had been helping William's sister, now helps me out two days each week. And Harriet, the best news of all is that I am to be a mother in my own right in the spring.
There is so much more that I want to tell you but as you can imagine time is very precious now so it must wait until another time. However, I felt quite shaken by the account of your exploits in Boston that writing to you could not be delayed for one more day.
What a turn of events to discover, and so brutally, the nature of the slavery problem in America. In spite of your earlier letter complaining of the arrogance of the abolitionist Maria Weston Chapman you are to be commended in your readiness to accept her friendship once you had discovered the truth about the seriousness of the situation. Is there no way in which moderate men and women can be made aware of the lynchings that are happening outside their cities? What a lucky escape you had. It's difficult to believe that you have retained a sense of equanimity after hearing that a lynching had even been planned for you. As you say, it might well be the slave traders who are responsible for these actions, and that slavery does indeed continue to be a world problem. But this cannot be the whole story otherwise the free negroes would not continue to be imprisoned even though they are British sailors.
I feel sure that Maria Weston Chapman will appreciate your ongoing friendship and support over the difficult years ahead. How brave of the Ladies' Society to continue to hold meetings supporting abolition in spite of the danger to which they expose themselves, their family and property. If only more of the Boston men could drag themselves away from their abstract thoughts and hear what the women of the town are saying. You do indeed seem to have been fortunate in having Dr Channing, the Follens and Lorings for protection and support. That you should have been drawn into speaking out in support of the abolitionists whilst attending a meeting of the Ladies' Society behind the locked doors at the Jackson's home was surely the wrong thing to do as it clearly exposed you to great difficulties for the last six months of your stay in America. I would have been far too nervous to speak up whilst the growing mob were hooting, yelling and throwing mud against the windows. Although I don't commend the behaviour of the moderate citizens of Boston I can understand that during this reign of terror they might well not have had the courage that you have displayed throughout. I am not surprised that whilst many considered you to be foolhardy you still felt impelled to stand alone considering as you do that slavery is inconsistent with the law of God.
Even though Charles Emerson spoke out for free speech during your problems in Boston and in spite of his brother Waldo inviting you to be his guest during this period of your unpopularity I really do think that they could have done more in committing themselves to a more concrete way of helping the poor negroes.
It must have been very hard to watch your friends suffer following the story being taken up by the newspapers but thank goodness you could all count on the support of each other. Perhaps you are right and in the long term the episode will alert those who continue to bury their heads in the sand, to take courage and speak out against the present injustices.
You must publish your experiences so that a wider public will be made more aware of the situation which exists in America and the continuing trade in slaves. If you were at first almost persuaded against the Abolitionists then how much more difficult it is for the rest of us to attain a clear picture of the human misery caused by the devastating impact of slavery. From your earlier letters I felt that the Colonisationists had found the middle way but your experience of the Texan situation proves this not to be the case. I would expect no less of you than refusing to accept an estate of several thousand acres in a choice part of the country if you would live for five years in Texas and help frame the Constitution and use your influence to bring over English settlers. That the negroes are apprentices for nine-nine years makes a mockery of any idea that there is no slave-trade or slavery in Texas.
You have always maintained an integrity that people respect even if they might not always want to hear what you have to say. However difficult you might find the task you must continue to show that earlier comments that you are a 'woman against the world' are just not true and that you are in fact a 'woman for the world' who is prepared to write and work so that the world might be a more just and equitable place for all.
I hope that now you are back in England you will feel content to work and write here rather than risking your life again on more hazardous adventures. I hope too that you will accept our invitation to visit us here in Derbyshire in the spring or early summer of next year so that you can meet my new family, especially the new baby. It is so very good to have you home again, safe and well.
Ever Your Affectionate Friend