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(1838) James McCune Smith, “The Abolition Of Slavery And The Slave Trade In The French And British Colonies”

James McCune Smith (1813-1865) was a prominent physician and abolitionist. Smith was educated in the African Free School in New York City. When failing to be admitted to any American college, he enrolled in Glasgow University in Scotland in 1832 and earned three degrees including his medical degree. Smith also joined the Glasgow Emancipation Society. In 1837, following a brief internship in Paris, he returned to New York City where he established a medical practice and opened a pharmacy. Smith is believed to be the first African American physician to hold a medical degree. Smith also continued his abolitionist activities as evidenced by the speech below which he gave in New York in 1838.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen: I rise to offer a resolution expressive of our high satisfaction in the noble efforts of the abolitionists of Great Britain and France, who, although they are separated from us by the width of an ocean, and by distinct political institutions, are nevertheless united with us in sentiment and exertion in the sacred cause of immediate and universal emancipation.

With these two nations we are connected by ties of the closest amity, and enjoy greater reciprocal influence than with any others upon the globe. To these nations our struggle for independence gave the first impulse to the path of liberty, which, if they have trod with slower, they have trod with more consistent steps than we: for every step they have advanced, each measure they have gained, has been an advantage not only to themselves, but to all who are dependent on them. And whenever the people of Great Britain or of France have obtained and portion of civil liberty, their first exercise of it has been to extend the precious boon to their fellow subjects, held in the galling chains of West Indian slavery.

In the last century, the first Convention elected by the French people immediately abolished slavery in two French colonies: and in the present, the passing of the British Reform Bill has rapidly been followed by the abolition of

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National Trust for Historic Preservation

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