‘COTTON IS KING!’ Sarah Parker Remond, Manchester and the abolitionist movement in Britain and America, 1859-1861 by Hannah Ruddle
In 1859, abolitionist Sarah Parker Remond arrived in Liverpool to commence a series of lectures throughout Britain and Ireland, the first free African American woman to do so. Her address in Manchester in September 1859 encapsulates the tensions of an industrial city dependent on slave-grown products in post-abolition Britain. Remond draws on the connections between the textile industry, plantation slavery and Britain’s abolitionist past in an attempt to stimulate support for emancipation in America. Conversely, Union Patriotic Envelope No. 2: Cotton is King!, a North American Union propaganda envelope, satirises the hypocrisy of Manchester’s trade with the slaveholding South to rally support for the Union on the eve of the American Civil War. This article will interrogate both artefacts to provide insight into the complex and conflicting role of Manchester’s cotton industry within British-American transatlantic trade and transatlantic abolitionist discourse. Abolitionists, such as Remond, needed to navigate and intersect shifting economic, political and moral interests to incite support for their cause in an industrialised post-abolition Britain dependent on slave labour.