Candid Reflections was published in London for the bookseller T. Lowndes in 1772. Its author, Edward Long (1734-1813), was an English lawyer that lived in Jamaica from 1757-1769, and eventually returned to England, but maintained ties to the island. The text is a reaction to Lord Mansfield's decision to not return escaped enslaved people to Jamaica, where Long maintains that they should not be given the same rights as British born citizens.
Candid Reflections was published in London for the bookseller T. Lowndes in 1772 and sold for one shilling and six pence. Edward Long (1734-1813), who signed this text anonymously as “a planter,” was an English lawyer with a family history of Caribbean colonialization and plantation ownership. Long lived in Jamaica from 1757-1769, serving as a member of the Jamaican Assembly even after he returned to England (Morgan). His family’s history in the West Indies provided the context through which he produced Candid Reflections. In the pamphlet, Long criticizes Lord Mansfield’s decision at court to declare that James Somerset, an escaped slave, could not be returned to the colonies against his will (Nadelhaft 194). Long perceives Mansfield’s ruling as a precedence that allows African slaves residing in Britain the same legal protection as natural-born British citizens; thus his pamphlet seeks to discredit this ruling by proving that African slaves should not be afforded equal legal protection for liberty and property under British law. Long also outlines a defense of the institution of slavery in general, based largely on the nature of the West Indian climate. Overall, Long’s arguments weave together complicated notions of English history, liberty, empire, and industry as they relate to slavery and the British colonies.
Although the reception history of this pamphlet is difficult to determine based on a dearth of references in those eighteenth-century newspapers that concern themselves with book reviews, Long’s pamphlet joins other pro-slavery tracts written in the wake of Mansfield’s decision. In 1773, Samuel Estwick, a planter in Barbados, wrote Considerations on the Negroe Cause Commonly So Called. Addressed to the Right Honourable Lord Mansfield, Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench. Similarly, Antiguan plantation owner Samuel Martin Senior published A Short Treatise on the Slavery of Negroes in the British Colonies in 1775 (Greene 309). It seems as though the bookseller T. Lowndes only committed to printing the 1772 edition of Edward Long’s Candid Reflections; however, in 1774, T. Lowndes also printed the three-volume History of Jamaica—the text with which Edward Long is more commonly associated. It should be noted that the copy of this text that the Early Caribbean Digital Archive has ingested from the Yale Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library provides an interesting comparison of the various rhetorics within pro-slavery and abolitionist movements, as the copy has extensive marginalia written by the abolitionist Granville Sharp. An active advocate for the legal rights of slaves, Granville Sharp wrote A Representation of the Injustice and Dangerous Tendency of Tolerating Slavery (1769) and The Law of Liberty in 1776; both were instrumental texts in helping the abolitionist movement gain public attention and sympathy in England (Ditchfield).
Jack P. Greene has provided the most extensive analysis of the work in reference to the history of colonialization, slavery, and abolitionism in the West Indies. Specifically, Greene’s work has focused on Long as a pro-slavery writer who “attempted to reconcile colonial settler claims to an identity as free-born Britons with their enslavement of the vast majority of their colony’s inhabitants” (309). Other scholars of legal history may be interested in the statutes cited in sections I, IV, and V of Candid Reflections including William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. Sections II and VI of Candid Reflections lend themselves to ecocritical analysis, especially as Long often references the ecology of the West Indies in terms of its potential for abundance.
Ditchfield, G.M. “Sharp, Granville (1735-1813), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edition, Sept 2012.
Greene, Jack P. Creating the British Atlantic: Essays on Transplantation, Adaptation, and Continuity, University of Virginia Press, 2013.
Morgan, Kenneth. “Long, Edward (1734-1813)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004, online edition, May 2014. Accessed 2 October 2016.
Nadelhaft, Jerome. “The Somersett Case and Slavery: Myth, Reality, and Repercussions.” The Journal of Negro History, vol. 51, no. 3, July 1966, pp. 193-208. JSTOR, doi: 10.2307/2716061. Accessed 30 September 2016.
Greene, Jack P. Evaluating Empire and Confronting Colonialism in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Greene, Jack P. Exclusionary Empire: English Liberty Overseas, 1600-1900, Cambridge University Press, 2010.
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