Philadelphia: Benjamin C. Bacon, 1866.
27pp. 8vo. Modern marbled boards, gilt morocco label. Original printed front wrapper bound in. Vertical crease throughout, edges worn, gutter of front wrapper through p.16 crudely reinforced with tape. Evenly tanned, occasional light foxing. Good plus Library Company, Afro-Americana 5505; Blockson 4375. Item #366421
One of two apparently simultaneous editions of this forceful argument against segregation in Philadelphia in the early days following the Civil War. Significant agitation in favor of desegregation of street car transportation, something which had been effected in New York in 1861, began in Philadelphia in the latter years of the war. In particular, the inability of Black troops and veterans to access simple public transportation was bald-faced enough an injustice to motivate opposition, and the debate around and eventual ratification of the 14th Amendment in particular encouraged some of the most progressive elements in the city to organize, despite tepid public and political support.
The present pamphlet, attributed by Blockson to Republican party founder William D. Kelley, analyzes the personal, moral, and financial reasons that many Philadelphians opposed this seemingly innocuous change. Early on, Kelley sets the issue in its proper context: "The claim of the colored people to enter the cars, though a local question, is immediately connected with the great policy of Equality before the Law, which is now offering itself to the national acceptance." Beyond this, he notes how Philadelphia's African-American regiment was not allowed to participate in the 4th of July parade, Black veterans (and their orphans) have not received adequate care, and even "Radical Republican" mayor Alexander Henry had worked publicly and privately to oppose integration efforts, "to the manifest injury of twenty-seven thousands of innocent people...a most shameless abuse of power and perversion of authority." Kelley goes on to outline how reformers can not possibly rely on clergy or politicians for change, beholden as they are to the least progressive of their constituents, but must instead look to influential private citizens, such as those who had established the first Freedmen's Bureaus and the Sanitary Commission during the war.
Despite considerable resistance, Kelley and his fiercely radical colleague Thaddeus Stevens succeeded in passing a bill in March 1867 which prohibited racially-motivated discrimination on street cars and railways in Pennsylvania. Other than this edition, printed by prominent Quaker and member of the Pennsylvania Antislavery Society (PASS) Benjamin Bacon, another was published the same year with the imprint of Merrihew & Son, another regular printer for both the Society of Friends and PASS. The text of the two editions is largely identical, although the typesetting differs slightly - while no precedence between the two is established, the Bacon edition is considerably rarer both institutionally and on the market.
An early and important entry in the struggle for equal rights in post-bellum America.
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