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Archives & Manuscripts

Elihu Burritt Papers

 Collection
Identifier: SCPC-DG-096

Scope and Contents

The Elihu Burritt Papers consist of correspondence (primarily Burritt's holographs), published writings by and about Burritt, including books, pamphlets and newspaper clippings, photographs, and two serial publications edited by him: Advocate of Peace and Universal Brotherhood (1846) which was edited for the American Peace Society, and Burritt's Citizen of the World (1855-1856).

Burritt's correspondence spans the years of 1841-1878, much of it pertaining to his speaking engagements and publications. Included in his unpublished writings is a typewritten copy of his Last Will and Testament, unsigned, dated November 25, 1878. The Peace Collection holds a miscellany of Burritt's books and pamphlets published between the years of 1846 and 1875. Some are in DG 96; others are in the book collection and are listed on the Tripod computerized catalogue. The Friends Historical Library also has a small amount of correspondence to and from Burritt. The papers also include two books on astronomy by Burritt's brother, Elijah Burritt (1794-1838). Correspondents include Mary Carpenter and E.W. Jackson.

Dates

  • 1840-1965
  • Majority of material found within 1841-1878

Creator

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Limitations on Accessing the Collection

Access is provided through photocopies. The originals are restricted.

Copyright and Rights Information

None.

Biographical note

Elihu Burritt was born on December 10, 1810, in New Britain, Connecticut, into a working class family of deep religious faith and compassion for those less fortunate. He attended school briefly, but was largely self-educated. Burritt became a blacksmith to support himself, but he continued to study languages at night. Word of his erudition spread; he became known as the "Learned Blacksmith", and was offered opportunities to speak in public. While writing a lecture on "The Anatomy of the Earth", he was so impressed by the interdependency of its parts that he ended with a plea for international peace. This became his lifelong passion. He became acquainted with other social reformers and began his career as a prophet for peace. Burritt joined the American Peace Society in 1843, but quickly took issue with its direction and approach. He aligned himself with the "radical" element, which rejected all war, including defensive war. By the mid 1840s, he had gained recognition as one of the leading peace advocates in the United States. In 1846 he edited the Advocate of Peace, the journal of the American Peace Society, but he became increasingly disenchanted with the APS, and resigned from the executive committee when it tried to justify the Mexican War as a defensive action. Burritt wished to reach the widest possible audience; in order to disseminate his peace principles he published several periodicals, which were aimed at families, children, and people of the middle and working classes. He made eloquent appeals especially to members of the working class, reminding them that it was they who bore the financial and physical burden of war. He hoped that laboring men would form a vast union system, and make a universal strike against the war system. From 1844 to 1851 he edited the Christian Citizen. In 1845 he proposed that brief statements written by peace reformers be sent to newspapers in Europe and America. Known as "Olive Leaves", hundreds of newspapers carried the articles, which were read by an estimated two million people. In 1846 he expanded his idea of international cooperation by organizing the "Friendly Address" program, which paired cities in England and America to exchange greetings and expressions of good will. (The Peace Collection holds a surviving example of a Friendly Address, written by the women of Exeter, England, to the women of Philadelphia in 1846). In 1846, Burritt went to England to found the League of Universal Brotherhood. Eventually, 50,000 people (male and female, over the age of 12), pledged to renounce all war and to refrain from military service. Burritt also attempted to foster international goodwill by promoting "Ocean Penny Postage," a form of inexpensive transatlantic mail, and by organizing several international peace conferences in Europe, notably the first Peace Congress in Brussels in 1848. (It originally was to have been held in Paris, but unrest in that city prompted the move to Brussels. The second Peace Congress was held in Paris in 1849, and the third in Frankfort in 1850). The international peace movement was shattered by the American Civil War and by the Crimean War in Europe. Burritt was in an especially difficult position because, although he had been an early and passionate advocate of the abolition of slavery and of complete equality among the races, he was branded a traitor by those who thought that the Civil War must be fought to eliminate the absolute evil of slavery. He had formulated a plan of "compensated emancipation", which would have paid slave owners to free their slaves with proceeds from the sale of public lands in the western United States. Appalled by the war and convinced that the North had erred in not recognizing the independence of the Southern Confederacy, Burritt at first retired to his farm, then returned to England to lecture and write. He served as the American consular agent there from 1865 to 1869. He returned to New Britain, Connecticut in 1870. The years after the Civil War found Burritt's reform labors decreasing substantially, yet he continued to reaffirm the moral principles upon which he had based his life. Burritt died in New Britain on March 6, 1879. *Parts of this introduction were adapted from the Biographical Dictionary of Modern Peace Leaders. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1985, entry for Elihu Burritt, and from Elihu Burritt: Crusader for Brotherhood by Peter Tolis, Hamden, Conn. : Archon Books, 1968.

Extent

1 Linear Feet (1 linear ft.)

Overview

Elihu Burritt was born on December 10, 1810, in New Britain, Connecticut, into a working class family. He attended school briefly, but was largely self-educated. Burritt became a blacksmith to support himself, but he continued to study languages at night. Word of his erudition spread; he became known as the "Learned Blacksmith", and was offered opportunities to speak in public. While writing a lecture on "The Anatomy of the Earth", he was so impressed by the interdependency of its parts that he ended with a plea for international peace. This became his lifelong passion. He became acquainted with other social reformers and began his career as a prophet for peace.

Arrangement

Items are arranged by type of material, then chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was obtained through various gifts and purchases.

Related Materials

American Peace Society Records (DG 003)

Related Materials

For related materials, search the library's online catalog

Separated Materials

Items removed from this collection include: serials (removed to the Peace Collection retired periodicals area), photographs, two Ocean Penny Postage envelopes for 1850 and 1851 (removed to the Peace Covers album; photocopies are in DG 96, box 2), and advertisement and pencil sketch of Burritt (removed to Oversize Collection).

Removed to the Photograph Collection:

  1. Portrait of Elihu Burritt [ca. 1846?]. 2 copies.
  2. Portrait of Elihu Burritt, undated. Signed "Your faithful friend, Elihu Burritt".
  3. Photo of Elihu Burritt, full-length, with knapsack, undated.
  4. Portrait of Elihu Burritt seated, with right hand at ear, undated. 2 copies.

Removed to Oversize Collection:

  1. "The Late Mr. Elihu Burritt" (aged 68 years): Pencil sketch, artist and date unknown.
  2. "Elihu Burritt's newspaper" (advertisement)

Bibliographic References

Guide to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, 2nd ed., p. 14.

Legal Status

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Processing Information

This collection was processed originally by various Peace Collection staff, and by Barbara Addison in January, 1993. This finding aid was revised by Wendy Chmielewski in July, 2008.

Source

Creator

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Find It at the Library

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