As a child, I thought slavery was ended with the American Civil War. As a teenager I read in The Revelation (or, Apocalypse, in the Bible) about the day when merchants would weep and mourn since no one bought their goods anymore. The list of goods, ends with "and slaves, that is, human souls." So I figured that some day slavery would come back.
Little did I know that it never ended. It is a world-wide business, and today human traffickers' profit $150,000,000,000 every year. It is the second fastest growing "business" after illegal drugs.
Frances Rolleston fought slavery in Great Britain and saw it outlawed. But she soon discovered another kind of slavery—that of greedy factory owners who enslaved entire families, including children. She wrote, "The abolition of African slavery which we have lived to see, and in which many of us joyfully labored heart and hand, encourages us to hope that the scarcely less iniquitous factory slave-trade will yield in time to public reprobation."
One source of information about slavery today is the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Read about it here.
January 11th, 1862
"Joyfully do I take the remaining few minutes to post time to bless the God of all peace, for peace between the sister countries. Every body is for giving every possible indulgence to wounded pride, &c; and now it is known that this Mason was the author of the Fugitive Slave Law, his reception will give no offence, it will be cool indeed, if not actively adverse--otherwise the released captive would have interested England, but anti-slavery England can not bear this."
The American Civil War endangered peace between England and the United States. The Confederacy had hoped for Great Britain's support, and in November 1861 sent James Murray Mason as commissioner for the Confederacy. He was aboard the RMS Trent on his way to England when Federal troops captured the ship. The north celebrated a little too much, bringing the threat of war with Great Britain.
Lincoln cooled off and engaged in some diplomacy by admitting that capturing the Trent was contrary to maritime law and that private citizens could not be considered enemy despatches, and everyone settled down. Mason sailed again in early January, and Frances predicted that his reception would be cool because of his pro-slavery views.
7 September 1833, Hanna More, writer and social reformer, died. She was a woman who had two careers. Frances Rolleston was one of her many admirers.
Hannah's first career was as a writer, poet and playwright. Her play, Percy, was staged successfully by David Garrick. She was one of the Bluestockings, a group of literary intellectual women.
In her forties, Hannah became more serious in her outlook, and her writing reflected it. In association with William Wilberforce and Zachary Maccaulay, she became a strong opponent of the slave trade.
Through Wilberforce, Hannah was made aware of the desperate needs of the poor in the Mendip area, and by 1800 she had opened twelve schools there. This was her second career, and it was through this connection with the Clapham Sect that Frances Rolleston would have become acquainted with Hannah. Twenty-four years later Frances started her own first school.
In 1834, two years after Hannah's passing, William Roberts published the first two volumes of the four-volume Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Mrs. Hannah More. This was followed by a one-volume Life by Henry Thompson, a good friend of Frances, and she wrote to him to say, "Every body will read your neat, polished, and condensed one volume, instead of the four,—valuable but unreadable memoirs." To her friend Irons she wrote, "Have you seen Henry Thompson's "Life of Hannah More?"—a capital hit, and raising her far above the impression left by the lengthy affair of Roberts."
Many years later, Frances told Henry Thompson that his Life of Hannah More should be reprinted. Such was the impression that Hannah More left on those who knew her.
Today in 1833 William Wilberforce died. He worked many years to have the British slave trade outlawed, finally seeing success in 1807, and then more years to end slavery itself. He died days after learning that that piece of legislation was sure to succeed.
Of course, Wilberforce did not do this singlehandedly. Frances Rolleston was one of those recruited into the cause in 1826 by "a deputation of influential Quakeresses" because, they told her, the gentlemen would not stir. The anti-slavery people were told that they could do nothing, that Parliament disregarded petitions. But the overwhelming number collected could not be disregarded.
Remember, they did not have the Internet or even the telephone. Every petition signer had to be contacted by letter or in person. In Sheffield alone, Frances reported, the ladies collected 17,000 men's signatures and 24,000 women's.
Each petition held 150 to 200 signatures. Frances was present when all the petitions were combined into one. The movie Amazing Grace (Bristol Bay Productions 2006 and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment 2007) has a climactic scene showing Wilberforce unrolling the combined petitions before Parliament. PG, worth watching.
January 1st, 1863
"My feelings for some time have been, 'The people are famishing, what can I do to help?'"
In this letter FR lists some things she is doing and has done in the past to alleviate suffering due to famine.
In the 1822 famine,
Gave every particle of gold she possessed and
Painted miniatures to sell
For the present famine,
Cut back her living expenses in every way she can think of
Influenced others to give
Is giving away all the income from three of her books. This she did by first investing a L320 legacy in their printing.
In another letter of the same date, FR promotes the use of free-labour calico, that is cotton cloth made in India rather than that made by slaves, which is just as cheap and just as good.
There is no sense in these letters of her making resolutions for the New Year. It is simply the continuation of her lifelong style of living.