Title: List of books presented by Moses Brown, Esq., October 17, 1801.
Register Book (1753-1836), Providence Library Company.
In 1801, Moses Brown (1738-1836) donated seven books on the abolition of slavery to the Providence Library Company, the progenitor of the Athenæum whose books form our Archives Collections. A descendent of a wealthy Rhode Island merchant family involved in the slave trade, Moses was the youngest of the four Brown brothers. Raised as a Baptist, and once a slave owner himself, Moses became a Quaker and a respected supporter of the rights of all men. He was a founding member of the Providence Abolition Society in 1789, and involved in a very public dispute over slavery with his eldest brother John, a powerful defender of slave trading in Rhode Island.
All of the titles presented by Moses were published in the 1780s and include the writings of two prominent British abolitionists, James Ramsay and Thomas Clarkson. Clarkson’s “Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species” was published as the winning essay for a competition while he was a student at Cambridge University in 1785. Originally written in Latin, it was immediately republished in English and was considered the bible of the British anti-slavery movement. The copy that Moses presented to the library was published in Philadelphia in 1787, and inspired him to suggest that Brown University offer a similar essay contest about the slave trade a year later, but it was never held. When Brown died in 1836, he left $500 to the Providence Abolition Society to be used for the printing of publications by the organization.
Five of the seven titles recorded in the Register Book remain in the collection, and a couple of them include Brown’s signature.
Discovered by: Kate Wodehouse, Director of Collections & Library Operations