19th century abolitionist Starbuck’s archive up for auction

Campaigning correspondence: some of the pages from Samuel Starbuck’s journal, including the diagram from the slave ship Brookes, which is being sold at auction in Selsdon next month

An important historical archive of early 19th-century correspondence compiled by prominent abolitionist Samuel Starbuck could sell for at least £6,000 when it goes under the hammer at Catherine Southon’s latest auction at Farleigh Golf Club, Selsdon, on Wednesday, February 8.

Dating from 1821 to 1829, the archive is being sold by descendants of the Starbuck family.

The Starbuck family were prominent in the anti-slavery movement throughout the 18th and 19th centuries in both England and the United States. Among the founding Quaker families in Nantucket in the 1700s, after the American War of Independence some emigrated to Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, where they continued their whaling business.

“This is a wonderfully fascinating archive which includes an array of historically important documents,” TV antiques expert Southon said.

The archive is bound together in an album, containing more than 60 pages of documents, the majority being period hand-written copies of letters by Starbuck together with related printed documents, several being numbered letters having been sent to prominent abolitionists.

Under the hammer: TV antiques expert Catherine Southon

One to The Anti-Slavery Society in London is titled “Purchasing, the Freedom of, and giving, a Christian Education to Slave Children”, dated February 11 1828 and is signed by Samuel Starbuck.

Also included is a heavily inscribed copy of “Storage of the British Slave Ship Brookes under the Regulated Slave Trade Act of 1788” detailing the exact measurements of the hold of the ship, deck, gun room and numbers of captives.

Starbuck wrote: “This engraving, therefore, speaks for itself. It shows that the sufferings of the poor slaves, for want of room and as must be suffocating as we have described thus? For if when 451 slaves are placed in the different rooms as prisoners of the Ship Brookes, not only the floors and the platforms are entirely covered with bodies, but the bodies actually touch each other how wretched must have been their situations.”

Another letter is titled “Emancipation” and was published in The Cambrian newspaper in May 1823. “The Abolition of the Slave Trade and the abolition of slavery are two very different things. The abolition of the African Slave trade was officially in 1807, but slavery in those West Indies colonies now exists with all its horror and with punishment and torturing even unto death.”

The archive even includes a letter to the Duke of Wellington: “To his Grace Arthur Duke of Wellington, First Lord of His Majesty’s Treasury, London, Samuel Starbuck with his best respects takes leave here to present his ideas of Plan for the abolition and extinction of slavery.”

Catherine Southon Auctioneers and Valuers’ auction of antiques and collectables is at Farleigh Golf Club on February 8, from 10am, with viewings there on the Monday and Tuesday, February 6 and 7.

The full catalogue is available on the company’s website here.

Read more: A great time hunting down antique bargains with Jo Brand



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1 Response to 19th century abolitionist Starbuck’s archive up for auction

  1. Lewis White says:

    I will think very differently of the name Starbuck in future. Even if they were Pembrokeshire whalers for a time. It is easy to sit back now in judgement of our forebears.

    What exactly is the relationship between this estimable man, Mr Samuel Starbuck, the anti-slavery hero, and the modern mega coffee-corporation ?

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