Examination of Thomas C. Brown

Publication Year: 1834

American Anti-Slavery Society. Examination of Thomas C. Brown: A Free Colored Citizen of S. Carolina, as to the Actual State of Things in Liberia in the Years 1833 and 1834, at the Chatham Street Chapel, May 9th & 10th, 1834. New York: S.W. Benedict, 1834.
PHS Call number: PAM E 450 .B76 1834

Reading suggestions

See especially pages 3-12; on page 10, Brown mentions speaking with Elliott Cresson, who suggests he should speak in favor of colonization. Also refer to pages 31-32, especially for Reverend Ralph Randolph Gurley’s perspective on abolitionists.

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Source note

Elliot Cresson (1796-1854) was a Philadelphia philanthropist and perhaps the most ardent member of the Young Men's Colonization Society of Pennsylvania, a branch of the American Colonization Society. Ralph Randolph Gurley (1797-1872) was a key administrator of the American Colonization Society for 50 years, eventually becoming director for life. At this time, he was the agent and secretary of the society.

Historical Context

The American Anti-Slavery Society was founded in 1833 by prominent abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and others who believed the institution of slavery should be abolished. Elliot Cresson, member of the Young Men’s Colonization Society of Pennsylvania, was a prominent Quaker as well as a zealous supporter of colonization. Though many Quakers were abolitionists, including well known leaders such as Anthony Benezet and Lucretia Mott, many 19th century Quakers were also colonization supporters, anti-abolitionists, and even slaveowners.

During the Examination, questioners of Mr. Brown as well as Brown himself mention “recaptured Africans.” This term refers to enslaved African people brought illegally to the United States (where the importation of slaves from Africa was banned in 1808), “recaptured” by American naval ships, and resettled in Liberia. 

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Reading questions
  1. When was this source written, and who was its author? What was the purpose of writing the source?
  2. Why do you think there so many questions about alcohol use and sale in Liberia? 
  3. On page 5, a “member of the examining committee” of the American Anti-Slavery Society asks Brown whether he is an American or an African. What does this question suggest about attitudes towards African Americans in the 1830s? 
  4. What do the disruptions of this meeting (see pages 12 and 19) say about the differing visions of abolition and colonization in the 1830s? 
  5. Does this source corroborate, or contradict, Document 1 (the Tyson discourse)? 
  6. What observations can you make about the questions people asked during the meeting?
  7. What about abolitionism does Reverend R.R. Gurley most strongly object to (pages 31-32)?
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Source type
History Topics
Abolition and Anti-slavery
African American History
African History
Colonization Movement
Time Period
Slavery, Sectionalism, and Social Reform (1815-1861)