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From Liverpool to Mount Vernon : Edward Rushton in transatlantic perspective

Oldfield, John R


Professor John Oldfield
Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation


Among historians of British anti-slavery Edward Rushton is probably best known for his West-Indian Eclogues, which established his reputation as a hard-line anti-slavery activist. Perhaps less well known is his second abolitionist publication, his Expostulatory Letter to George Washington, of Mount Vernon, in Virginia, on his continuance to be a proprietor of slaves, published in Liverpool in 1797. Both works were startlingly original. In West-Indian Eclogues, Rushton had flirted with the idea of slave insurrection as a justifiable (even laudable) response to black enslavement, presenting his readers with assertions of black fury and black-on-white violence that were startlingly at odds with the non-confrontational tone of most eighteenth-century anti-slavery rhetoric. Rushton’s letter to George Washington was equally blunt and uncompromising, challenging the former President of the United States to free his slaves, presumably with immediate effect, thereby making good what he (Rushton) saw as America’s commitment to the ideas of freedom and equality. By any standard it was a bold, even foolhardy, intervention into public debates about slavery that tells us not only a great deal about Rushton but also about the transatlantic roots and complexion of British anti-slavery during the ‘Age of Revolution’.

Publication Date 2016-09
Journal La questione romantica
Print ISSN 1125-0364
Electronic ISSN 2037-691X
Publisher Liguori Editore
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 1-2
Institution Citation Oldfield, J. R. (2016). From Liverpool to Mount Vernon : Edward Rushton in transatlantic perspective. Questione Romantica, 7(1-2),
Keywords Anti-slavery, Slavery
Copyright Statement ©2016 University of Hull
Additional Information This is the author's accepted manuscript of an article published in La questione romantica, v.7 issue 1-2. This edition also has ISBN 9788820766849.


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