This handwritten and signed letter as well as the printed circular by the Reverend John Brooke Pinney are addressed to Dr. William Darlington of West Chester, Chester County, Pennsylvania.

A Rare Abolition-Slavery item from a controversial chapter in American History as the American Colonization Society seeks to resettle slaves in Liberia. Plagued with financial mismanagement in both the state and national organizations, John Brooke Pinney, the 1st Presbyterian African Missionary, Ex-Governor of Liberia and future President of the College of Moravia and 1st Consul General to Liberia, stumps through Pennsylvania trying to raise funds and public opinion for the Pennsylvania State Colonization Society (an auxiliary of the national society) in their efforts to re-settle slaves back to the West Coast of Africa.

The Pennsylvania and New York Colonization Societies were reeling from scandal and money problems, hence Pinney's reference to having to go to the "country" to raise funds. Perhaps tellingly and indicative of alternative agendas are the lines of the propaganda tract which state: "
I expect to have with me quite a number of curiosities from Africa, illustrating the rude state of their arts and manufactures, &c, &c." There is little question that in addition to trying to "solve" the slavery issue by colonizing Liberia, there were many American businessmen who saw profit and opportunity in the exploitation of the natural resources, agriculture, markets and products of West Africa, but could not bring themselves to consider that the "rude state of their arts" would one day bring phenomenal prices in 21st century markets.|

An exceptional and essential piece for any Abolition-Slavery collection. Handwritten, signed letters by Pinney on the subject are virtually non-existent in the marketplace and when one considers that this also contains a controversial circular as well, the package is complete. An interesting sidebar is that Pinney was both born and died on Christmas Day.


Transcript of the Letter:

Dear Sir

     In my great ignorance of this section of Penna [Pennsylvania] I have deemed it proper to write to several individuals in hope that some one would take interest enough to secure me a public meeting & an audience to hear a Report of what Liberia is. May I request your kind offices in my favour if, as I trust is true, your feelings & sentiments are in unison with our noble object.

Very Respectfully yours
J. B. Pinney [autograph signed]

Transcript of the Printed Circular:

Colonization Rooms Corner of George & 7th Street
 July 1st 1840 [these lines in manuscript]

Dear Sir:

     By appointment of the Pennsylvania State Colonization Society, I became their General Agent early in May.
     I am now operating as their Agent - to diffuse information, form auxiliaries, and collect funds.  Having just returned from Liberia last spring, and carefully examined all the settlements, I can give facts from my own observations as to their condition.
     I address you as a friend of injured Africa, to request your kind offices in giving out notice for a public Meeting in West Chester on Wednesday the 8th July when I will attend and present the claims of Colonization in a Lecture.
     I expect to have with me quite a number of curiosities from Africa, illustrating the rude state of their arts and manufactures, &c, &c.
     I shall also have some publications treating on this subject for sale, CHEAP - my object being rather to diffuse information than to make a profit by their sale.
     The present is a season of very great embarrassment in the cities, and hence we must more than ever look to the country for aid. Never before has the cause, in my opinion, given greater promise of success and extensive usefulness, nor at any former period has there been a more extensive field for their operation opened in Africa.
     The cause needs and deserves general and liberal support. Dear sir, allow me to solicit your interest and influence to obtain for me a large meeting.  I have a series of appointments out, and cannot stay longer than a day with you.

With very great respect
J. B. Pinney [printed]

Document Specifications
: Letter and Circular are Very Fine. The document consists of one sheet of wove unwatermarked paper, folded (bifolium) to make four pages. The printed circular is on the first page, the handwritten signed letter is on the third page and the fourth page, folded over, served as the outer wrapping and address panel. A single page measures ≈ 8" wide  x 10" high, or  200mm x 255mm. The letter and circular have been folded for mailing and there are some slight fold separations on the outer page. The document generally has some age toning. An exceptional opportunity to add a rare early abolitionist letter and propaganda tract to your collection. Pinney material is remarkably rare in the marketplace and a combination letter and circular on subject makes this a special document from a controversial figure who was: 1st Presbyterian Missionary to Africa, Governor of Liberia, 1st Consul General to Liberia and President of the College of Moravia.

Autograph Handwritten Letter                                                         Circular        



Blue "PAID" in oval cancel with manuscript "6" (cents) showing prepayment of postage & Reverse





The African colonization movement of the nineteenth century remains an enigma. The difficulty in discussing colonization centers primarily on whether it was an attempt to "civilize" Africa and rid the nation of slavery, or was an attempt by white America to achieve a racially pure nation and profit in the process. Efforts to answer this question are complicated by the fact that the early nineteenth century was a period of widespread religious ferment and deep conviction.

The first major colonization project probably originated in the mind of Thomas Jefferson. As early as 1777 Jefferson proposed an emancipation scheme to the Virginia legislature, which included a provision for colonization. Various other colonization proposals developed through the years of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Quakers such as John Parrish, William Thornton and Paul Cuffee were among its early supporters. The greatest American colonization movement developed in the mind of the Reverend Robert Finley of New Jersey. He noted in 1816 that blacks could not obtain equality in the prejudice-ridden United States. From his efforts, plans were laid, in December 1816, for the American Colonization Society (ACS). The organization attracted some of the most renowned Americans of the time to its cause. Henry Clay, Francis Scott Key, General Samuel Smith, Andrew Jackson, and William Crawford were all early supporters. George Washington's nephew, judge Bushrod Washington was chosen the Society's first President. War heroes, lawyers, statesmen, and businessmen were all enlisted in the cause. Emancipation, removal of a dangerous class, elevating the free blacks, spreading Christianity, and ending the slave trade were among the stated objectives.

In 1817 an agent, Samuel J. Mills, established the first auxiliaries, hoping thereby to raise $5,000 for his expedition to Africa. Leading citizens of New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore were involved in these branch societies, but Mills' monetary goal was not reached. Indeed, the organizations formed must have been extremely weak, for by 1819 New York's and Philadelphia's were almost nonexistent. It was not until 1825, when Ralph Randolph Gurley became the ACS Secretary, that a movement for state appendages began in earnest. In the fall of 1826, Secretary Gurley and Francis Scott Key toured the area from Philadelphia to Montpelier in order to build auxiliaries. In October the Colonization Society of the State of Pennsylvania was formed and shortly after this a smaller group was founded at West Chester by influential men of various political and religious philosophies. This particular letter is addressed to a Mr. Darlington in West Chester.

The two leading centers of the Colonization effort were the Pennsylvania and New York Societies. After a decade of successful efforts, problems began to develop. In May 1839 the joint Pennsylvania and New York organizations surrendered their remaining interests in Bassa Cove (an independent enclave they had established in Liberia) to the national American Colonization Society. The ACS assumed their debts, and, they in turn pledged to pay all funds they collected to the ACS, except those needed to run their own Societies. But the Pennsylvania Society faced other problems. In 1840, during the time of this letter, they had trouble with two individuals who were collecting funds in the Society's name. They had continual arguments with the ACS over borrowing and the payment of debts. Both the state and national bodies were burdened with scandal and financial problems. This no doubt is the "trouble" to which Pinney refers in his circular about
"very great embarrassment in the cities".

Excerpts from: Kurt Lee Kocher,  A Duty to America and Africa: A History of the Independent African Colonization Movement in Pennsylvania


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