ALLEN, ANTHONY D. 1774-1835.
Manuscript Letter in the hand of Hiram Bingham, first 8 pp only on 2 bifolia, recto and verso, 4to, Honolulu, October 11, 1822, as dictated to him by Anthony Allen, to Dr. Dougal of Schenectady, New York, a few small holes to first bifolium.
The "lost" letter of Anthony Allen, where he describes his rise from slavery in New York to freedom and land-ownership in Hawaii.
Allen was born into slavery in 1774 in Albany or Schenectady, and was owned by the Dougal family. A Mr Kelly purchased him, but Allen fled in 1800 to Boston, briefly working as a cook, before finding a job in the galley of a whaling vessel. He was rediscovered by Kelly in Boston harbor, but the ship's owner purchased his freedom and allowed Allen to work off his debt.
After 1802, he was free, sailing as far as the Caribbean, the Northwest Coast of America, China, India, France, Cuba and to Hawaii where he settled permanently in 1812.
In 1822, Allen received a letter from a Dr. Dougal of Schenectady, New York. Dougal was the son of the family that owned Allen as a slave, and had read an article about him in the Missionary Herald. He wrote to Allen, asking him to reply describing his life during the past two decades. Touched by the letter, Allen asked the American Protestant missionaries whether one of them would be willing to act as his scribe in writing a response. Hiram Bingham agreed. Nothing more was known of Allen's letter to Dougal, and it was presumed lost until, in 1991, a private collector brought the present letter to the attention of the Hawaiian Historical Society (Marc Scruggs, 'Anthony D. Allen: a Prosperous American of African Descent in Early 19th Century Hawaii,' in The Hawaiian Journal of History, 26 (1992): 55-93).
The willingness of Bingham to help Allen write was testimony to the former slave's generosity and kindness towards the missionaries. Elisha Loomis remarked of Allen that he "lives the most comfortably of any on the island - has a wife and two pretty children," and that he frequently sent gifts of potatoes, squashes, goats, and milk.
In part: "Mr Dear Master, I rejoice that you have found out my residence after supposing I had been dead ... As you have written me a long and very kind letter and requested me very particularly to write to you an account of myself since I left your city, I have come to the house of the Missionaries, to get one of them to write what I wish to say to you respecting myself ... Came to the Sandwich Islands in 1811 & here came ashore with permission and lived four months with Hevaheva the high Priest of the Islands ... Capt. Davis employed me as a steward in passage from one island to another particularly to wait on the King Tamehameha & his five Queens, as I was a taboo'd man, and they would like my services the better ... The High Priest gave me a piece of land at Waititi containing about six acres, having on it a few cocoanut trees & three small houses or native huts ... Came back to these Islands in the Isabella Capt. Davis in 1812 & celebrated the 4th of July at Karakekuah, a great day. - Returned from Hawaii to this Island & after about a fortnight I came ashore with my wages which amounted to about 150 doll., and came to live on my place with two families the people of the High Priest, belonging to the land. And here I must tell you that according to the custom of the country & the practice of some of my white neighbors who settle in these Islands I took me two wives ... Isaac David had six, and one American gentleman I could name, kept ten, for two or three years ... In 1813 I began to build me small thatched houses, I built one for a sleeping house, one for an eating house for myself and one for an eating house for my wives, for we might not eat in a sleeping house without breaking taboo. I could not eat in my women's eating house nor they in mine. I could not go into theirs nor they in mine, we could not drink ..." The text breaks off here, and the fate of the remainder is unknown. However, the surviving portion of the letter "adds important information to Hawaiian history, African American history, and maritime history" (Scruggs).