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Frederick Douglass to Richard D. Webb, November 10, 1845

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FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO RICHARD D. WEBB

Limerick, [Ire.] 10 Nov[ember] 1845.

DEAR FRIEND

Your letter1Richard D. Webb’s previous letter to Douglass informing him of the Birmingham, meeting has not been located. does not inform me when the great meeting is to take place in Bermingham.2Although he initially asked Richard D. Webb to send his regrets to the Birmingham Temperance Society, Douglass decided to make the journey across the Irish Sea in mid-December 1845. In a 16 November letter, Douglass indicates that Webb may have convinced him to attend, or at the very least reminded him of, the meeting. In Birmingham Douglass received a mixed welcome. Some treated him coldly, but others, in particular abolitionist Joseph Sturge, treated him kindly. The temperance meeting took place at the town hall on 15 December, and a large crowd attended. Several lecturers preceded Douglass, and he wondered if he would be allowed to speak, since he had been left off the bill. Despite his misgivings, Douglass was pleased with his performance, commenting that he spoke twenty-five minutes “amid cheers and sat dawn amid loud cries of go, on.” Douglass then returned to Belfast, arriving there by 20 December. Douglass to Richard D. Webb, 20 December 1845, Anti-Slavery Collection, MB. I cannot therfore say whither I could attend it or not.

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You may however inform Mr. Cadbury3Richard Tapper Cadbury (1768–1860) was a devout Quaker who supported peace, temperance, and antislavery campaigns in Birmingham, England. Barn in Exeter, Cadbury apprenticed to a draper in Gloucester, worked for a silk mercer and draper in London, and then set up a successful silk shop of his own in Birmingham. In 1796 Cadbury married Elizabeth Head, and together they raised nine children. As a leading resident of the industrial city of Birmingham, Cadbury served as a street commisioner for fifty years (1801–51), helping to modernize the city through incorporation, construction of a town hall, and improvement of the streets and water system. Cadbury also served on the boards of several benevolent institutions. He, Joseph Sturge, and others helped to bring the Derby, Birmingham, and Bristol railroad line to the city. Like their father, Cadbury's sons became successful businessmen; in particular, John and Benjamin Head established Cadbury Brothers as Britain's first cocoa manufacturer, making the family name synonymous with chocolate. William A. Cadbury, Richard Tapper Cadbury, 1768–1860 (Birmingham, Eng., 1944), 5–8, 10, 19–20, 25; Carl Chinn, The Cadbury Story: A Short History (Studley, Eng., 1998), 1–10. that my arrangements are such as to deprive me of the pleasure of attending[.] I now think my best plan will be to proceed immediately to Scotland from this—(joining Buffum in Dublin)[.]4Douglass lectured in Belfast in December 1845 and in early January 1846 before traveling to Scotland to continue his speaking tour in mid-January. Douglass Papers, ser. 1, 1:76–144. As to accompanying Friend Wright5Abolitionist and pacifist Henry Clarke Wright (1797–1870) was one of Garrison's closest associates. Reared in central New York, Wright apprenticed as a hatmaker before studying at Andover Theological Seminary. After his ordination in 1823, he served as a Congregational pastor in Massachusetts and as a lecture agent for the American Sunday School Union. In 1835 he joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and became one of Theodore Dwight Weld's "seventy agents" until the executive board of the American Anti-Slavery Society removed him in 1837 because of his extreme opinions. His radicalism also discomfited the American Peace Society, so he ceased lecturing for that group as well. In 1838 Wright helped found the New England Non-Resistance Society. Nonresistance, the foundation of Wright's reform philosophy, proclaimed the sovereignty of individual conscience and opposed all forms of coercion, violence, and the dominion of humans over one another. From 1842 to 1847 he traveled in Europe, lecturing on nonresistance and abolitionism. His avowal of antisabbatarian views in Scotland and his accusations, later retracted, that Free Churchmen were "drunkards" made George Thompson, James Buffum, and Douglass wary of him. Wright later turned to spiritualism and helped organize the Universal Peace Union in 1867. Lib., 29 January 1847; Henry C. Wright, Human Life: Illustrated in My Individual Experience as a Child, a Youth, and a Man (Boston, 1849); idem, "My First Acquaintance with Garrison and Anti-Slavery," in Liberty Bell (Boston, 1846), 148–58; Peter Brock, Pacifism in the United States, from the Colonial Era to the First World War (Princeton, N.J., 1968), 516–18, 532–600, 926–27; Lewis Perry, Childhood, Marriage, and Reform: Henry Clarke Wright, 1797–1870 (Chicago, 1980); idem, Radical Abolitionism, 18–22, 60–61, 89–90, 159, 222–29, 234–38, 262, 278–82; ACAB, 6:623; NCAB, 2:232.—I think it unwise to do so. I by no means agree with him as to the importance of discussing in this country the disunion question, and I think our difference in this matter would prevent that harmony necessary to success. Beside Friend Wright has created against himself predjudices which I as an abolitionist Do not feel myself called upon to withstand. My mission to this land is purely an—Anti slavery one, and although there are other good causes which need to be advocated,—I think that my Duty calls me strictly to the question of slavery. I am qualified for this, if I am for any thing, and it would be idle for me to attempt becoming any thing else at least under present circumstances. Friend Wright is identified with doctrines for Which I do not wish to seem responsible. He is truly reformer in general. I only claim to be a man of one idea. I should never the less be delighted to see him and talk the matter over with him.

Please remember [me] to Mrs. Webb6Hannah Waring Webb (1809–62) edited the Anti-Slavery Advocate with her husband, Richard D. Webb. Like Richard, Hannah was at the center of the antislavery movement in Ireland. She and her sister, Maria Waring, collected items for the Boston Anti-Slavery Bazaar, and Hannah was a frequent correspondent of many women's rights activists. Her father was a Wexford draper who migrated to Waterford in her childhood. She met Richard D. Webb through her uncle, who had been Webb's teacher. The two married in 1833 and had two sons and two daughters. Their partnership as abolitionists lasted until her death in 1862. Garrison and Garrison, William Lloyd Garrison, 2:402, 4:420; Harrison, Richard David Webb, 8, 16–19, 43; Ripley, Black Abolitionist Papers, 1:216, 223n.

Truly Yours

F. DOUGLAS

P.S. Please write me what you think of the above conclusions.

Yours truly,

F. D.

ALS: Anti-Slavery Collection, MB. PLSr: Foner, Life and Writings, 1:122–23. PLeSr: Clare Taylor, ed., British and American Abolitionists: An Episode in Transatlantic Understanding (Edinburgh, Scot. 1974), 241.

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Date

November 10, 1845

Type

Publication Status

Published