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Richard Hildreth was a journalist, antislavery activist born in Deerfield, Massachusetts. In 1834 Hildreth sold his share in the Boston Atlas and traveled south in search of a more healthful climate. For eighteen months he stayed on a plantation in Florida, where he wrote an antislavery treatise, Despotism in America (1840), and America's first antislavery novel, The Slave; or, Memoirs of Archy Moore (1836). Though The Slave never achieved the popularity of later antislavery fiction, Despotism in America became an important source book for economic arguments against slavery. From 1839 to 1843 Hildreth lived in British Guiana. Though considered for a professorship of history at Harvard in 1849 and again in 1851, he was turned down. In accordance with his principles he joined the Vigilance Committee formed to prevent the Fugitive Slave Law from being put into operation in Boston and donated legal services to fugitive slaves and those charged with helping them. Hildreth's health worsened during his time at the New York Tribune. By 1860, hoping that a warmer climate would help him, he was appointed consul to Trieste in 1861. He died in Florence.