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Frederick Douglass to William Lloyd Garrison, September 29, 1845

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FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON

Dublin, [Ire.]1The placeline of the letter also includes “Great Brunswick Street.” 29 September 1845.

MY DEAR FRIEND GARRISON:

I promised, on leaving America, to keep you informed of my proceedings whilst I remained abroad. I sometimes fear I shall be compelled to break my promise, if by keeping it is meant writing letters to you fit for publication. You know one of my objects in coming here was to get a little repose, that I might return home refreshed and strengthened, ready and able to join you vigorously in the prosecution of our holy cause. But, really, if the labor of the last two weeks. be a fair sample of what awaits me, I have certainly sought repose in the wrong place. I have work enough here, on the spot, to occupy every inch of my time, and every particle of my strength, were I to stay in this city a whole six months. The cause of temperance alone would afford work enough to occupy every inch of my time.2In mid-September 1845, Douglass spoke at several antislavery and temperance meetings in Dublin, including one in Celbridge, where he reportedly “spoke warmly in favor of teetotalism, and was much applauded.” NASS, 16 October 1845. I have invitation after invitation to address temperance meetings, which I am compelled to decline. How different here, from my treatment at home! In this country, I am welcomed to the temperance platform, side by side with white speakers, and am received as kindly and warmly as though my skin were white.

I have but just returned from a great Repeal meeting, held at Conciliation Hall.3Douglass addressed a meeting of the Loyal National Repeal Association in Dublin’s Conciliation Hall on 29 September 1845. Lib., 24, 31 October 1845. It was a very large meeting—much larger than usual, I was told, on account of the presence of Mr. O’Connell, who has just returned from his residence at Derrynane,4Derrynane, Daniel O'Connell’s ancestral home, is located near Cahirciveen in rural County Kerry, Ireland. O’Connell spent his formative years there, raised by his uncle. Because of his upbringing at Derrynane, O'Connell appreciated the character and traditions of the rural Irish, which he used to his political advantage in later years. As an adult, O'Connell spent summers at Derrynane, entertaining guests and enjoying the mountainous surroundings. MacDonagh, Emancipationist, 142, 107; Boylan, Dictionary of Irish Biography, 306–08. where he has been spending the summer, recruiting for an energetic agitation of repeal during the present autumn. On approaching the door, or gateway leading to the Hall, and observing the denseness of the crowd, I almost despaired of getting in; but, having by the kindness of James Haughton, Esq. obtained a note of introduction to the Secretary of the Repeal Association, and being encouraged to persevere by the evident disposition of the friendly crowd to let me pass,—many of whom seemed to be holding in their breath, and thus contracting their dimensions, to allow me passage way,—I pressed forward, and with much difficulty succeeded in reaching the interior. The meeting had

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been in progress for sometime before I got in. When I entered, one after another was announcing the Repeal rent for the week. The audience appeared to be in deep sympathy with the Repeal movement, and the announcement of every considerable contribution was followed by a hearty round of applause, and sometimes a vote of thanks was taken for the donors. At the close of this business, Mr. O’Connell rose and delivered a speech of about an hour and a quarter long. It was a great speech, skilfully delivered, powerful in its logic, majestic in its rhetoric, biting in its sarcasm, melting in its pathos, and burning in its rebukes. Upon the subject of slavery in general, and American slavery particular, Mr. O'Connell grew warm and energetic, defending his course on this subject. He said, with an earnestness which I shall never forget, 'I have been assailed for attacking the American institution, as it is called,—negro slavery. I am not ashamed of that attack. I do not shrink from it. I am the advocate of civil and religious liberty, all over the globe, and wherever tyranny exists, I am the foe of the tyrant; wherever oppression shows itself, I am the foe of the oppressor; wherever slavery rears its head, I am the enemy of the system, or the institution, call it by what name you will. I am the friend of liberty in every clime, class color. My sympathy with distress is not confined within the narrow bounds of my own green island. No—it extends itself to every corner of the earth. My heart walks abroad, and wherever the miserable are to be succored, or the slave to be set free, there my spirit is at home, and I delight to dwell.'5A quotation from Daniel O'Connell’s speech at the Conciliation Hall meeting. Dublin Evening Post, 30 September 1845; Lib., 24 October 1845.

Mr. O'Connell was in his happiest mood while delivering this speech. The fire of freedom was burning in his mighty heart. He had but to open his mouth, to put us in possession of 'thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.'6A quotation from the Thomas Gray poem “From the Progress of Poesy” (1757). Thomas Gray, The Complete Poems of Thomas Gray: English, Latin and Greek, ed. H. W. Starr and J. R. Hendrickson (Oxford, Eng, 1966), 16. I have heard many speakers within the last four years—speakers of the first order; but I confess, I have never heard one, by whom I was more completely captivated than by Mr. O'Conell. I used to wonder how such monster meetings as those of Repeal could be held peaceably. It is now no matter of astonishment at all. It seems to me that the voice of O'Connell is enough to calm the most violent passion, even though it were already manifesting itself in a mob. There is a sweet persuasiveness in it, beyond any voice I ever heard. His power over an audience is perfect.

When he had taken his seat, a number withdrew from the Hall, and, taking advantage of the space left vacant thereby, I got quite near the platform, for no higher object than that of obtaining a favorable view of the Liberator. But almost as soon as I did so, friend Buffum7James N. Buffum. had by some means (I know not what) obtained an introduction to Mr. John O'Connell,8John O'Connell (1810–58), lawyer and member of Parliament, was the son of the “Irish Liberator,” Daniel O’Connell. The younger O’Connell shared many of his father’s ideals and served as his right-hand man during Irish repeal agitation in the 1840s. Although he aspired to his father’s political stature, the younger O’Connell never exerted the same influence as the elder statesman. Merrill and Ruchames, Garrison Letters, 4:192n; DNB, 14:834–35. son of Daniel O'Connell, and nothing would do but I must be introduced

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also—an honor for which I was quite unprepared, and one from which I naturally shrunk. But Buffum; in real Yankee style, had resolved (to use a Yankee term) to 'put me through'9To “put through” means to accomplish an item of business and is often used when referring to the passage of legislation. John Russell Bartlett, Dictionary of Americanisms: A Glossary of Words and Phrases Usually Regarded as Peculiar to the United States, 2nd ed. (Boston, 1859), 349–50. at all hazards. On being introduced to Mr. O'Connell, an opportunity was afforded me to speak; and although I scarce knew what to say, I managed to say something, which was quite well received.

The Hutchinson family have been here a week or more, and have attended two of my lectures on slavery; and here, as at home, did much by their soul-stirring songs to render the meetings interesting.10The Hutchinson Family Singers stayed in England after their arrival with Douglass on the Cambria in Liverpool. Douglass and Buffum immediately moved on to Dublin, and the Hutchinsons reunited with Douglass in Ireland in mid-September. Lib., 3 October 1845.

My Narrative is just published,11With the aid of Maria Weston Chapman, Douglass arranged for Dublin printer and abolitionist Richard D. Webb to publish the Narrative after Douglass’s arrival in Ireland in 1845. Webb quickly produced 2,000 copies and ultimately published at least five editions of the Narrative, totaling 13,000 copies, in Ireland and England from 1845 through 1847. Although Webb estimated that Douglass would earn £180 from these printings, Douglass’s actual profits remain unknown. Douglass claimed to have “realize[d] enough” from the book’s sale to cover his expenses as of early 1846, and Garrison reported in September 1846 that Douglass was doing “very well” in a “pecuniary point of view . . . as he sells his Narrative very readily.” Sales were brisk from the outset, reaching 500 by November 1845 and 2,000 by March 1846. Webb printed another edition in April or May 1846, the first English edition appeared before the year’s end. By January 1848, the ninth British edition of the book had appeared, as well as French and German translations; additionally, over 11,000 copies were in print in the United States. By 1850, a total of 30,000 copies had been published in the United States, England, an Ireland. Douglass to Richard D. Webb, 2 March 1846, Anti-Slavery Collection, MB; NS, 8 January 1848; Douglass Papers, ser. 2, 1:X.ii; Merrill and Ruchames, Garrison Letters, 3:415; Douglas C. Riach, “Ireland and the Campaign against American Slavery, 1830–1860” (PhD. diss, University of Edinburgh, 1975), 294. and I have sold one hundred copies in this city. Our work goes on nobly. James and myself leave here for Wexford on Monday next. We shall probably hold two meetings there, and from thence go to Waterford, and then to Cork, where we shall spend a week or ten days. I have also engagements in Belfast, which will detain me in Ireland all of one month longer.12On 7 and 8 October 1845, Douglass spoke before a crowd in Wexford. On 9 October 1845 he gave a lecture in nearby Waterford. Douglass and Buffum then went to Cork on 11 October, where they met William Martin and the Jennings family. They appeared in Cork at a large public breakfast on 14 October, and Douglass spoke at an antislavery society meeting on 15 October. He also gave several speeches in Belfast in December 1845. Waterford Mail, 11 October 1845; Southern Reporter, 14, 16 October 1845; Cork Examiner, 15 October 1845; Lib., 24 October 1845; Belfast Banner of Ulster, 9 December 1845.

Much love to my anti-slavery friends.

Ever one with you, through good and evil report,

FREDERICK DOUGLASS.

PLSr: Lib., 24 October 1845. Reprinted in JNH, 10:660–63 (October 1925); Woodson, Mind of the Negro, 396–99. PLeSr: Foner, Life and Writings, 1:120–22. HLSr: General Correspondence File, reel 1, frames 559–62, FD Papers, DLC.

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Date

September 29, 1845

Type

Publication Status

Published