Philadelphia: Merrihew and Gunn, 1838. First Edition. An appeal to the people of Pennsylvania, attempting to persuade them "to vote against the ratification of a new constitution for Pennsylvania in 1838 because the word "white" had been inserted prior to "freemen" as a qualification for voting" (Reader, David. The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia). The decision towards disfranchisement stemmed from a lack of clarity in the state constitution's definition of "freemen" (which varied from county to county, depending on local politics and tradition), as well as increasing tension over the issue of slavery following Nat Turner's Rebellion in Virginia.
Appeal was prepared by Robert Purvis (1810-1898), son of a European Jew and a free woman of color, and a prominent abolitionist who, along with his two brothers, chose to identify with the Black community, using his education and family's wealth to support anti-slavery activities. Acting as chairman of a seven member committee chosen to represent the African American citizens of Pennsylvania, his pamphlet "highlighted the achievements, sacrifices, and value of the black community to Philadelphia" (ibid.). "Fellow Citizens: - We appeal to you from the decision of the "Reform Convention," which has stripped us of a right peaceably enjoyed during forty-seven years under the Constitution of this commonwealth. We honor Pennsylvania and her noble institutions too much to part with our birthright, has her free citizens, without a struggle. To all her citizens the right of suffrage is valuable in proportion as she is free; but surely there are none who can so ill afford to spare it as ourselves" (p.3). A passionate appeal for civil rights, composed a quarter century before the Emancipation Proclamation, and 32 years before African Americans regained the right to vote. Scarce; we note a single copy in the auction record for a disbound copy (Swann, 2000). OCLC notes 12 holdings (NYPL, NY Historical, Stony Book, Yale, AAS, BPL, Huntington Library, Temple, Howard, LCP, Hist. Society of Pennsylvania, and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Library). LCP AFRO-AMERICANA 8557; WORK, p.356. Slim octavo (22.5cm); light brown string-tied wrappers, printed in black; ,4-18pp. Wrappers neatly split along spine-fold, with light wear and dust-soil to wrapper extremities, and faint, scattered foxing to margins; Very Good, complete copy.