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Frederick Douglass to William Lloyd Garrison, April 16, 1846

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FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON

Glasgow, [Scot.] 16 April 1846.

WM. LLOYD GARRISON

MY DEAR FRIEND—

I have given up the field of public letter-writing to my friend Buffum,1The next letter from James N. Buffum to William Lloyd Garrison appeared in the Liberator on 26 June 1846. who will tell you how we are getting on; but I cannot refrain from sending you a line, as a mere private correspondent. My health is good, my spirit is bright, and I am enjoying myself as well as one can be expected, when separated from home by three thousand miles of deep blue ocean. I long to be at home—‘home, sweet, sweet, sweet home! Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home.’2The phrase “mid pleasures and palaces, though we may roam / Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home” occurs in the song “Home Sweet Home,” from the first act of John Howard Payne’s opera Clari, the Maid of Milan, first staged in London in 1823. John Howard Payne, Clari, or, the Maid of Milan (New York, 1823), 11. Nor is it merely to enjoy the pleasure of family and friends, that I wish to be at home: it is to be in the field, at work, preaching to the best of my ability salvation from slavery, to a nation fast

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hastening to destruction. I know it will be hard to endure the kicks and cuffs of the pro-slavery multitude, to which I shall be subjected; but then, I glory in the battle, as well as in the victory.

I have been frequently counselled to leave America altogether, and make Britain my home. But this I cannot do, unless it shall be absolutely necessary for my personal freedom. I doubt not that my old master3Thomas Auld. is in a state of mind quite favorable to an attempt at recapture.4In an unknown southern newspaper, Auld published a response to the depiction of himself in Douglass's Narrative. Auld denied ever having beaten Douglass and stated that he planned to free Douglass once Douglass had reached the age of twenty-five. A. C. C. Thompson included parts of this response in his own letter refuting Douglass’s accusations, which was published in the 31 December 1845 issue of the Albany Patriot and reprinted in the 20 February 1846 issue of the Liberator. Douglass Papers, ser. 2, 1:185–86. Not that he wishes to make money by selling me, or by holding me himself, but to feed his revenge. I know he feels keenly my exposures, and nothing would afford him more pleasure than to have me in his power. He has suffered severe goadings, or he would not have broken the silence of seven years, to exculpate himself from the charges I have brought against him, by telling a positive lie. He says he can put his hand upon the Bible, and, with a clear conscience, swear he never struck me, or told any one else to do so! The same conscientious man could put his hand into my pocket, and rob me of my hard earnings; and, with a clear conscience, swear he had a right not only to my earnings, but to my body, soul and spirit! We may, in this case, reverse the old adage—‘He that will lie, will steal’—and make it, ‘He that will steal, will lie’5A variation on the German proverb, “He that will lie will steal,” or “He that will steal an egg will steal an ox.” Stevenson, Book of Proverbs, 1397.—especially when, by lying, he may hope to throw a veil over his stealing. This positive denial, on his part, rather staggered me at the first. I had no idea the gentleman would tell a right down untruth. He has certainly forgotten when a lamp was lost from the carriage, without my knowledge, that he came to the stable with the cart-whip, and with its heavy lash beat me over the head and shoulders, to make me tell how it was lost, until his brother Edward,6Edward Auld (1802–?) was the younger brother of Thomas and Hugh Auld, Jr. Edward worked as a clerk in Baltimore during the 1840s. 1840 U.S. Census, Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, Ward 7, 48; Matchett’s Baltimore Director for 1840–1 (Baltimore, 1840), 51. who was at St. Michael’s, on a visit at the time, came forward, and besought him to desist; and that he beat me until he wearied himself. My memory, in such matters, is better than his. One would think, from his readiness to swear that he never struck me, that he held it to be wrong to do so. He does not deny that he used to tie up[ ]a cousin of mine,7Douglass’s cousin, Henny Bailey (1816–?), was the daughter of his mother’s sister Milly. As a child Henny suffered severe burns, which left her hands severely scarred and virtually useless, and which caused Aaron Anthony to estimate her value at fifty dollars, much less than his other slaves. For that reason, Douglass believed, Thomas Auld constantly abused Henny after he inherited her in 1826. In his Narrative, Douglass recounted that Auld tied Henny up and beat her while quoting scripture to her, both morning and evening, leaving her while he tended to his store during the day. Sometime between 1838 and 1840, Auld released Henny to fend for herself. Douglass Papers, ser. 2, 1:44–45, 136; Preston, Young Frederick Douglass, 113. and lash her, and in justification of his bloody conduct quote, ‘He that knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.’8Luke 12:47. He finds fault with me for not mentioning his promising to set me free at 25.9No record, other than his own claims, exists to prove that Auld planned to free Douglass at age twenty-five. Interestingly, when Douglass’s aunt Jenny and her husband, Noah, escaped in 1825, their master, Aaron Anthony, published an advertisement for their return in which he also claimed that he had intended to free the fugitives. Preston, Young Frederick Douglass, 65–66. I did not tell many things which I might have told. Had I told of that promise, I should have also told that he had never set one of his slaves free; and I had no reason to believe he would treat me with any more justice and humanity, than any other one of his slaves. But enough.

Scotland is in a blaze of anti-slavery agitation.—The Free Church and Slavery10The non-Garrisonian American and Foreign Anti—Slavery Society launched abolitionist protests against the proslavery practices of the Free Church of Scotland. In April 1844, its executive committee sent a public letter complaining of the Church’s solicitation of financial aid from southern slaveholders. Garrisonian Henry C. Wright was already in Scotland at this time and soon took up the cause, as did Garrison’s Liberator. The Garrisonian New England Anti-Slavery Convention in late May 1844, attended by Douglass, also condemned the Free Church of Scotland. Lib., 25 April, 6, 13 June 1844; George Shepperson, “The Free Church and American Slavery,” Scottish Historical Review, 30:126–29 (October 1951); Perry, Childhood, Marriage, and Reform, 45–47. are the all-engrossing topics. It is the same old question of Christian union with slaveholders—old with us, but new with most people here.

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The discussion is followed by the same result as in America, when it was first mooted in the New-England Convention.11William Lloyd Garrison and a small number of sympathizers founded the New England Anti-Slavery Society in 1832. Three years later, as abolitionist support grew, the group renamed itself the Massachusetts Anti~Slavery Society, and other states founded similar organizations. Representatives from these various state societies continued to meet annually, usually in May, in a New England Anti-Slavery Convention. As early as 1834, the New England abolitionists called on churches to treat slave owning as they would any other sinful behavior and bar its perpetrator from communion. Dwight Lowell Dumond, Antislavery: The Crusade for Freedom in America (1961; New York, 1966), 172–73; McKivigan, War against Proslavery Religion, 21. There is such a sameness in the arguments, pro and con, that if you could be landed on this side of the Atlantic, without your knowledge, you would scarcely distinguish between our meetings here, and our meetings at home. The Free Church is in a terrible stew. Its leaders thought to get the slaveholders’ money and bring it home, and escape censure. They had no idea that they would be followed and exposed. Its members are leaving it, like rats escaping from a sinking ship. There is a strong determination to have the slave money sent back, and the union broken up. In this feeling all religious denominations participate. Let slavery be hemmed in on every side by the moral and religious sentiments of mankind, and its death is certain.

I am always yours,

FREDERICK DOUGLASS.

PLSr: Lib., 15 May 1846. Reprinted in JNH, 10:676–78 (October 1925); Woodson, Mind of the Negro, 412–14; Foner, Life and Writings, 1:149–50. HLSr: General Correspondence File, reel 1, frames 588–90, 591–95, FD Papers, DLC.

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Date

April 16, 1846

Type

Publication Status

Published