Sue Young Histories

Joseph Sturge 1793 – 1859

May 06, 2010

{::}**Joseph Sturge** 1793 – 1859, son of a farmer in Gloucestershire, was an English Quaker, abolitionist and activist.

Joseph Sturge was an advocate of homeopathy, and a close friend of William Allen, Henry Peter Brougham 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, John Greenleaf Whittier, and his publisher, Benjamin Hudson was on the Management Committee of the Birmingham Homeopathic Hospital,

Joseph Sturge founded the British and Foreign Anti Slavery Society (now Anti Slavery International). He worked throughout his life in Radical political actions supporting pacifism, working-class rights, and the universal emancipation of slaves, causing great rejoicing in the Wedgewood and Darwin families.

Joseph Sturge also knew Richard Robert Madden who used the services of (*see of interest section below)  Sharpe, Field & Jackson, Solicitors, 41 Bedford Row - Mr. Field was a close friend of  James John Garth Wilkinson, and his father  James John Wilkinson, (Swedenborg Archive Family Register A148a Temple Bar loose leaf Documents and Summary Enclosed English Documents from 1662 (Latin documents begin 1621).

Joseph Sturge went to Birmingham to work in 1822. A member of the Religious Society of Friends (commonly known as Quakers), he refused to deal in grain used in the manufacture of alcoholic spirits, although he was a corn factor.

In rapidly expanding industrial Birmingham, he was appointed an alderman in 1835. He opposed the building of the Birmingham Town Hall, to be used for performances, because of his conscientious objection to the performance of sacred oratorio.

Joseph Sturge became interested in the island of Jamaica and the conditions of its enslaved workers. He visited it several times and witnessed first hand the horrors of slavery, as well as the abuses under an apprenticeship system designed to control the labour of all former slaves above the age of six for 12 years.

He worked for emancipation and abolition with African-Caribbean and English Baptists.

In 1838, after full emancipation was authorized, Sturge laid the foundation stone to the “Emancipation School Rooms” in Birmingham. Attending were United Baptist Sunday School and Baptist ministers of the city.

In 1839 his work was honoured by a marble monument in a Baptist mission chapel in Falmouth, Jamaica. It was dedicated to “the Emancipated Sons of Africa”.

After legislation for the abolition of slavery in the British dominions was enacted in 1833, slave-owning planters in the West Indies lobbied to postpone freedom for adults for twelve years in a form of indenture.

Enslaved children under the age of six were emancipated by the new law on 1 August 1834, but older children and adults had to serve a period of bonded labour or “indentured apprenticeship”. Sturge led a campaign against this delaying mechanism.

His work to speed up adult emancipation was supported by Quaker abolitionists, including William Allen, Henry Peter Brougham 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux and others. In a speech to the House of Lords, Henry Peter Brougham 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux acknowledged Sturge’s central role at that time in rousing British anti-slavery opinion.

In 1834 Sturge sailed to the West Indies to study apprenticeship as defined by the British Emancipation Act of 1833. He intended to open it to criticism as an intermediate stage en route to emancipation.

He traveled throughout the West Indies and talked directly to apprentices, proprietors (planters), and others directly involved. Upon his return to Great Britain, he published Narrative of Events since the First of August 1834; In it he cited an African-Caribbean witness, to whom he referred as “James Williams” to protect him from reprisals.

The original statement was signed by two free African-Caribbeans and six apprentices. As was customary at the time, it was authenticated, by Rev. Dr. Thomas Price of Hackney, London, who wrote the introduction.

Following another trip and further study, Sturge published The West Indies in 1837. Both books highlighted the cruelty and injustice of the system of indentured apprenticeship.

Whilst in Jamaica, Sturge worked with the Baptist chapels to found Free Villages, to create homes for freed slaves when they achieved full emancipation. They planned the communities to be outside the control of planters.

As a result of Sturge’s single minded campaign, in which he publicized details of the brutality of apprenticeship to shame the British Government, a major row broke out amongst abolitionists. The more radical element were pitted against the government.

Although both had the same ends in sight, Sturge and the Baptists, with mainly Nonconformist support, led a successful popular movement for immediate and full emancipation.

As a consequence, the British Government moved the date for full emancipation forward to 1 August 1838. They abolished the 12-year intermediary apprenticeship scheme.

For many English Nonconformists and African-Caribbean people, 1 August 1838, became recognised as the true date of abolition of slavery in the British Empire.

In 1837, keen to act independently of the consensus in the Anti-Slavery Society, Sturge founded the Central Negro Emancipation Committee. More significantly, in 1839, one year after abolition in the British dominions (a time when many members of the Anti-Slavery Society considered their work to be completed), Sturge led a small group to found a new Anti-Slavery Society.

They named it the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, based on the ambitious objective of achieving emancipation and an end to slavery worldwide. This society continues today as Anti-Slavery International; its work is far from achieved since slavery exists on a large scale in many countries, albeit no longer legally.

In the 19th century, the Society’s first major activity was to organize the first international conference, as well as the first devoted to abolition. It was known as the World’s Anti-Slavery Conference and took place in June 1840 in London. Others were held in 1843 (Brussels) and 1849 (Paris). The convention was held at the Freemasons Hall on 12 June 1840.

It attracted delegates from Europe, North America, and Caribbean countries, as well as the British dominions of Australia and Ireland, though no delegates from Africa attended. It included African-Caribbean delegates from Haiti and Jamaica (then representing Britain), women activists from the United States, and many Nonconformists.

Commissioned by the society and its “moral radicals”, a great painting of the event was completed. It hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, London to this day.

The conference’s political significance lay in the fact-finding groups it set up to report about slavery worldwide. It also created studied links between British investment and business and overseas slavery.

The conference was historically notable within the Woman’s Suffrage Movement due to delegates’ having excluded women’s participation just prior to its opening. Activists Lucretia Coffin Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were galvanized to organize a United States movement advocating woman’s rights.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, on her honeymoon at the time, and Lucretia Coffin Mott were active in the US anti-slavery movement. The issue of women’s participation provoked the split between followers of William Lloyd Garrison of the American Anti-Slavery Society and Lewis Tappan’s American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. The latter was ideologically congruent with Sturge’s English counterpart.

In 1841 Sturge travelled in the United States with the poet John Greenleaf Whittier to examine the slavery question there. He published his findings to promote American abolition.

In 1845, Sturge visited Nottingham as he was local parliamentary candidate. There he visited a Sunday School run by Samuel Fox. The idea of a school that taught not only scripture, but also basic skills such as reading and writing was taken up by Sturge. Sturge opened a similar school in about 1845.

On his return to England, Sturge supported the Chartist movement. In 1842 he ran as parliamentary candidate for Nottingham, but was defeated by John Walter, the proprietor of The Times.

He then took up the cause of peace and arbitration being pioneered by Henry Richard. He helped found the Peace Society. In addition, he was instrumental in the founding of the Morning Star in 1855 as a newspaper through which to promote the Peace Society and his other socially progressive ideas.

Sturge married, first, in 1834, Eliza, daughter of James Cropper. After her death, in 1846 he married Hannah, daughter of Barnard Dickinson.

Sturge died at Edgbaston, Birmingham. A memorial to him was unveiled three years later in front of a crowd of 12,000 on 4 June 1862 at Five Ways. It stood at the boundary between Birmingham and Edgbaston.

Of interest:

Joseph Young Sturge 1823 - 1891, was a British architect and surveyor. His daughter Caroline Sturge MB London, was a Resident Medical Officer in a homeopathic hospital in America in 1895, alongside Winifred Westlake LRCP Edinburgh:

From Joseph Young Sturge was a tenant of Wigmore House in Castle Street, Thornbury from  about 1867 to about 1875. In the Census of 1861 Joseph Sturge was living next door to Wigmore House at Oriel House.

This Census shows that Joseph Young Sturge was an architect and surveyor who was born in the area of Sea Mills in Bristol and that his wife Caroline also came from Bristol.  At that time they had four children; Elizabeth aged 10 who was born in Tooting, Francis aged eight from Bishopston and Henry aged five and Caroline aged one,  both born in Thornbury.  They had two servants.

Joseph Young Sturge was born on 6th October 1823 and baptised in Bristol.  His parents were Young Sturge and his wife Sarah.  The children of Young Sturge were born in Bristol.  Young Sturge himself was from Bristol and as early as 1804 his family were living at West Hay in Westbury on Trym in Bristol.  Young Sturge and Sarah moved to Tockington near Thornbury and in 1841 he was a surveyor at Woodhouse.

Joseph Young Sturge married Caroline Harwood in the March quarter of 1845.  It seems likely that Caroline Harwood was born 25th October 1822 the daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth Harwood.  The 1851 Census shows that the couple had set up home in the Endscombe area of Bath.  At that time Joseph was aged 27 years old and Caroline 28.  They had a son called Charles Joseph aged six and a daughter Elizabeth aged seven months.  Joseph was a landed proprietor.

By 1856 Joseph and Caroline Sturge had moved to Thornbury and Joseph was advertised in the Trade Directory as a Land Surveyor.  Presumably at this time they were living in Oriel House.  A newspaper advertisement of 28th October 1865 says that two adjoining houses in Castle Street are for sale.  These appear to be what  are now numbers 8 and 6 Castle Street - otherwise known as Oriel House and Oriel Cottage.   The larger one, now number 8, was said to be in the occupation of Joseph Young Sturge.

The 1867 and 1869 Rate Books show that  Joseph Young Sturge had moved to Wigmore House.

The 1871 Census shows that Joseph was aged 47 and Caroline was 48.  At this time they had four children living with them; Elizabeth aged 20, Francis aged 18 was articled to a solicitor, Mary aged 15 was a scholar as was her 11 year old sister Caroline.  They also had a two year old grand daughter Gertrude Mable Sturge living with them

By the Rate Book of 1876 the house was no longer occupied by Joseph Young Sturge but by Elizabeth Cornock.  The same Rate Book shows that the Sturge family had moved to the High Street and were renting a house from William Osborne Maclaine.

Caroline the 18 year old daughter of Joseph Young and Caroline Sturge died on January 8th 1878.  By 1880 the Rate Books show that he had returned to Castle Street, this time to what became number 4 Castle Street and that he was renting that house from Richard Scarlett.

Joseph Young Sturge died 27th December 1891 aged 68 years.  We have a newspaper report of his funeral  in 1892.

“The prevailing sickness of the past month has re­sulted in the death of some of the oldest and most respected Parishioners, leaving a gap which, so to speak, can never be filled.

It was with deep regret that the news was received on Sunday, December 27th, of the death of Mr. J. Y. STURGE, after an illness of only a fortnight’s duration, at his residence in Castle Street.

By his death, the parish has suffered a severe loss.  For nearly thirty years he was senior churchwarden of the Parish Church, and has done much towards maintaining the fabric of the Church.  He also took great interest in the Sunday and Day Schools, being Superintendent of the former for many years, and Treasurer of the latter until his death.  In him the sick and poor had a true friend, and one who was always caring for their welfare.

As a token of esteem in which the deceased was held, the bells of the Parish Church were half muffled for the Evening Service: and the singing of Christ­mas Carols, which was to have taken place after Evensong, was postponed until after the Epiphany.

“The Dead March in Saul” was played by the Organist, Mr. J. T. Chambers, at the close of the Service, while the Choir and Congregation remained standing…The Funeral took place on Wednesday, 30th December at 3.30 p.m. amid very heavy rain, a more miserable day could not have been chosen”.

Caroline Sturge died on 16th September 1901.

Of interest:

*From NEW YORK December 14, 1839


My dear Friend,

When Dr. Madden was here he, in conjunction with the counsel for the poor Africans brought here in the schooner Amistad, addressed a letter to the British members of the Mixt Commission at the Havana, requesting them to procure certified copies of the Treaties between England and Spain of 1814 and 1815 and Annexes. Yesterday a letter was recd from the British Commissioners stating that it was very doubtful whether they should be able to procure them—as the Govr would not probably affix his signature—that it was an extra-judicial act in them to apply for it—they might be censured by their own Govt as well as the authorities of Cuba, &c. Still their letter was very civil & concluded thus:—‘We cannot conclude without expressing our gratification to observe the truly British feeling which animates your community on the subject of the wrongs to which those unhappy victims of the Slave trade have been exposed, and the peculiar zeal and ability you manifest in their behalf.’ We shall write to Mr. Fox, [21] the British minister in this country to apply to the Spanish minister here for certified copies of the Treaties and the Cedula or Royal Decree of Spain but we have little expectation of procuring them in this way—as the Spanish minister, like the Govr of Cuba may wish, instead of facilitating us to throw every obstacle in the way of obtaining the papers wanted. We have in books (our own law books and in British books) copies of said Treaties &c, but they cannot be received in Courts of Justice. Certified copies are indispensable. It would be desirable to obtain them from Spanish sources, but if this cannot be done we must obtain them from the British authorities. To ensure copies at any rate and as speedily as possible, Theodore Sedwick Esqr. Of counsel of the Africans, has, by this vessel, written to William Sharpe Esq. of the firm of Taylor, Sharpe, Field & Jackson, Solicitors, 41 Bedford Row, London for certified copies of the Treaties between England & Spain of 1814 and 1815 and Annexes, and by my permission has directed him to apply to you for the fees &c. I will thank you to advance the sum, & on your informing me the amount I will immediately reimburse you. I will thank you to see, before paying them, that the sum charged is reasonable. If you can get Dr. Madden or Mr. Scoble to see Mr. Sharpe, and urge him to thoroughness & despatch we shall be greatly obliged. We hope also that Dr. Madden will get instructions sent from the proper authority to the British Commissioners to afford every facility in their power in this case. We are most unfortunate in attempts to procure testimony in several respects. Our own Sec. Of State (Mr. Forsyth) is a Slaveholder—we get no facilities from our own Government—and the British Commissioners even are afraid of offending the Spaniards or their own Govt by performing an act not strictly, as they conceive, within the line of their duty.

“Dr. Madden’s letter [22] to Dr. Channing on the Slave trade &c,. is published & I hope to send you a copy by this opportunity. It is a severe thing, but justly deserved, & will, I hope, do much good. I shall send it to the care of Messrs Cupper, Benson & co, as I do not know your regulations about postage on pamphlets. When I was in England the postage on newspapers & pamphlets was enormous. Postage on newspapers & letters is now reduced. How it is on pamphlets I shall be glad to be informed… [23]

“Affect & truly your’s

“Lewis Tappan”

  1. Henry Stephen Fox. The communications passing between Mr. Fox and Secretary of State, John Forsyth; viz., Fox to Forsyth, January 20, 1840, and Forsyth to Fox, February 1, 1841, communicated to Congress by President Van Buren, were published in full in the B. & F. A-S reporter, II, 58-59 (March 24, 1841). For additional information on the Amistad case, see Memoirs of John Quincy Adams…Ed. By Charles Francis Adams, X, 132 ff., 367 ff.; XII, 186; Moore, J.B., International Law Digest, V, 852-854.
  1. Madden Richard Robert, A Letter to W. E. Channing…on the Abuse of the Flag of the United States in…Cuba, and the advantage taken on its protection in promoting the slave trade, (Boston, 1839).

A Calm Observer, writing to Dr. Channing after Madden’s letter to him had become public, accused Madden of being always unreliable, a hypocrite, and of making a pretense to learning; but he, none the less, admitted the truth of Madden’s main contention that the Americans were engaged in and facilitating the slave trade (See pp. 25-27). He claimed, however, that, as the law stood, it was impossible for the United States Consul to do anything about it and he begged of Dr. Channing that he would make a moderate appeal to the American people. A second Madden letter against Trist was addressed to Ferdinand Clark of Havana, dated September 6, 1839, and published in the Emancipator, December 19, 1839, copied from the New Orleans True American, where the one to Channing was also published.

  1. As a general thing, hereafter, all references to postal rates will be omitted from the letters.


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