Abraham Schwartzman, a free African-American apprenticed to an elderly, childless Boston silversmith who bequeaths Abraham his business on the condition that he adopt the master craftsman’s name. Successful in Boston, Abraham heads to Europe to escape racism and to seek prosperity and a quieter life . . .
Abraham Schwarzman, Master Silversmith, had prospered sufficiently that he left his shop in the charge of a journeyman and three apprentices and made arrangements to travel to Lisbon. There he hoped to learn of Portuguese fashions in silverwork and to profit from producing work in the American fashion, which he hoped would have the appeal of novelty to the jaded Portuguese aristocracy and merchant class. He had a further plan of, events allowing, going on to Paris. Another Boston silversmith had, in the intermission of the wars following the Peace of Amiens, gone to Paris, where he had settled and prospered still.
He even thought from time to time, Schwarzman had told Edwin Lawrence as the moon rose over the Atlantic and cast shadows across the lee of Wachusett, of going on to St. Petersburg. In the Tsar’s court there were tremendous opportunities. It was well known that being a Negro was there something of an asset, carrying a certain cachet that enhanced a mechanic’s skills. And in St. Petersburg, Schwarzman admitted, he would be free of the attitudes toward race that made him often uncomfortable in Boston, for which he would happily exchange the less subtle exoticism with which he would expect to be regarded in Russia. He had some anxieties about Lisbon: capital of an empire built on slave labor, its residents themselves holding not only Negro but Moorish and Slavic slaves, Jews restricted to a ghetto, the Inquisition still in existence though quiescent.