Frederick Douglass to William Lloyd Garrison, May 23, 1846
FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON
London, [Eng.] 23 May 1846.
WM. LLOYD GARRISON—
I take up my pen to give you a hasty sketch of a five days visit to this great city. I arrived here from Edinburgh,1Douglass’s last known lecture in Edinburgh was given on 7 May 1846. Douglass Papers, ser. 1, 1:249. on the 18th instant, and proceeded immediately to 5 Whitehead’s Grove, the house of your early and devoted friend, GEORGE THOMPSON, from whom I had received a most cordial letter,2Thompson’s letter inviting Douglass to be a houseguest has not been located. inviting me to make his house my home, during my stay in London. The main object of my visit was to attend the annual meeting of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society3On Monday, 18 May 1846, Douglass addressed the annual meeting of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, held in Freemason’s Hall on Queen’s Street in London. London Nonconformist, 20 May 1846.—to do which, I had received a pressing invitation from the Committee of that Society. The meeting was held on the day of my arrival in Freemason’s Hall, great Queen street. The chair was taken by Sir Edward North Buxton, Bart.4Sir Edward North Buxton (1812–58), a barrister and the son of Thomas Fowell Buxton, was a member of Parliament who advocated the abolition of slavery and repression of the slave trade. Bart, an abbreviation of baronet, was commonly written after the name of someone holding that rank and often to supplement the prefixed “Sir.” BFASR, 1 May 1846; DNB, 3:559–61.
Having heard much of the meetings of this Society, I was surprised and disappointed by the fewness of those assembled. There were not more present, on this occasion, than what we usually have at our business meetings of the American A. S. Society. The thinness of the meeting was accounted for by the secretary, Mr. Scoble,5British clergyman, antislavery leader, and emigrationist John Scoble (c. 1810–?) acted as one of the first salaried lecturers for the Agency Committee, later serving as its secretary when it became the British and Foreign Society for the Universal Abolition of Negro Slavery and the Slave Trade. He traveled with Joseph Sturge to the West Indies and afterward lectured on the abuses of the apprenticeship system. Originally an ally of Garrison, Scoble broke with him in 1840 over the proper roles for women in the abolition movement. In 1842 he became secretary of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society and helped edit its Anti-Slavery Reporter. Scoble traveled throughout the West Indies, Canada, and the United States soliciting antislavery support and investigating the conditions of free and slave labor. Known for his antagonistic public manner, Scoble eventually proved a divisive inﬂuence on the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, and his retirement in 1852 came amid requests for his resignation. He resumed his antislavery activities in Canada West by becoming manager of the failing British-American Dawn Institute for refugee slaves, but faced widespread opposition. During his fifteen years of service to Dawn, Scoble only intensified the settlement’s financial problems and political controversies. Finally Josiah Henson, one of the founders of Dawn, sued Scoble for nonfulfillment of trusts and for maladministration. Scoble won the case, but Dawn’s prospects continued to wane. After several unsuccessful attempts to win legislative office in Canada, Scoble returned to England in 1867. London British Banner, 7 January 1852; Lib., 2 July 1852; John Scoble, British Guiana: Speech Delivered at the Anti-Slavery Meeting, in Exeter Hall, on Wednesday, the 4th of April 1838 (London, 1838); William H. Pease and Jane H. Pease, Black Utopia: Negro Communal Experiments in America (Madison, Wisc., 1963), 63–83; Lewis Tappan, A Side-light on Anglo-American Relations, 1839–1858, ed. Annie Heloise Able and Frank Joseph Klingberg (Lancaster, Pa., 1927), 101, 275; Robin W. Winks, The Blacks in Canada: A History, 2nd ed. (Montreal, 1997), 201–04; Merrill and Ruchames, Garrison Letters, 2:527–28n, 4:311n; Temperley, British Antislavery, 12–13, 37–38, 78–79, 187, 242. on the ground that there were several very important philanthropic meetings in progress at the same hour—meetings in which the friends of emancipation were deeply interested, and to which many had gone, who otherwise would have been present at the anti-slavery meeting.
I will not trouble you with any minute account of this meeting, as you will find a pretty accurate sketch of its proceedings in a London paper, which I have already mailed for you.6The annual convention of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society took place on 18 May 1846. The London Universe reported on the convention on 20 May, as did the London Nonconformist on 19 May. Douglass may have sent one of these papers to Garrison. There was one pleasing feature, to which I will refer, and that was, the readiness with which the meeting responded to the sentiment of "non-christian fellowship with slaveholders," and the zeal, spirit and unanimity with which it joined in our uncompromising demand upon the Free Church of Scotland, to ‘SEND BACK THE MONEY.’7The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society convention unanimously passed a resolution that deemed it the duty of the Free Church of Scotland to send back donations received from American slaveholders in order to advance the antislavery cause. A month later the society published a letter to the general assembly of the Free Church outlining the evils of slavery and urging that the money be returned. BFASR, 1 June, 1 July 1846. This was the more gratifying, in view of the manner in which this subject has been treated by some of the local auxiliary societies, which have stood aloof from the subject, and refused in any way to co-operate with us, because, as they allege, we are of the ‘Garrison party’ in America.8The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society chose to support the politically oriented American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, led by Lewis and Arthur Tappan, rather than the Garrisonians. The American and British Garrisonians, however, protested more hotly against the Free Church of Scotland for accepting money from American slaveholders than did the members of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. In this case, the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society joined the Garrisonians in denouncing the actions of the Free Church, as did abolitionists in Glasgow. David Turley, The Culture Of English Antislavery, 1780–1860 (London, 1991), 78–79, 100–103, 210. This ground has been distinctly taken by the Edinburgh Anti-Slavery Committee. Instead of seconding our efforts, (whether intentionally, or otherwise,) they have played into the hands of the enemy, and have been quoted over and over again, by the Free Church press, against us. In assuming this
position towards us, and the cause in which we are immediately engaged, they cannot but feel sensibly rebuked by the present example of the Parent Society; for that Society not only invited Mr. Thompson and myself to speak, but to speak on this very subject; and no parts of our speeches were more warmly received, or more enthusiastically cheered, than our several animadversions9A critical and usually censorious remark, or adverse criticism. on the conduct of the Free Church of Scotland,—which Church now stands before this country and the world as the most prominent defender of the Christianity of man-stealers.
At the close of the meeting, Mr. Joseph Sturge10Joseph Sturge spoke before the meeting and offered a resolution stating that the abolition of slavery and the slave trade would be “attained most effectually by the employment of those means which are of a moral, religious, and pacific character.” BFASR, 1 June 1846. came forward, and said that, in consequence of the fewness of the number who had had an opportunity of hearing me, he would do what he could to get me a meeting at the end of the week, when he was certain that a much larger meeting than the present could be obtained, if I would consent to address it. I agreed, and the meeting was held last night in Finsbury Chapel,11On 22 May 1846, Douglass spoke about the evils of American slavery at a special meeting held at the Finsbury Chapel in London. Other speakers included British abolitionists Joseph Sturge, George William Alexander, Stafford Allen, Joseph T. Price, George Thompson, and ministers John Campbell, James Carlisle, and John Hinton Howard. BFASR, 1 June 1846. one of the largest chapels in London. I shall also send you a newspaper report of this meeting. Meanwhile, I must say, it was one of the most effective and satisfactory meetings which I have attended since landing on these shores. You will observe, that the resolutions adopted by the meeting assert a broader and nobler platform, than that upon which our Broad street friends12The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society commonly held its meetings at 27 Broad Street, London, England. “Minutes of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society,” American Antislavery Collection, UkOxU-Rh. have for some time past acted. They have, as you are aware, taken sides with the New Organization and Liberty party,13By the fall of 1840, the leading members of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, including John Scoble, had aligned with the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. In May 1840 this “new organization” split from the Garrison-led American Anti-Slavery Society over the efficacy of politics and religion in the cause of abolition. The American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society endorsed the use of religion and politics in the fight against slavery, and most members supported the Liberty party when it formed in 1840. McKivigan, War against Proslavery Religion, 76–80, 144–48; Turley, Culture of English Antislavery, 103, 217–20. while they have decried and disparaged the efforts of yourself, and those who are earnestly laboring with you. The fact is, they have known very little of our efforts since 1840. Mr. Scoble, the Secretary, informs me that he has been left to gather information of our movements as best he could—that, while he has never, in a single instance, omitted to send you his Annual Report, he has in no instance received ours; so that he has been compelled to silence respecting us, for the want of information necessary to an intelligent opinion of our movement. I assured him that I thought our Reports had been sent, but that they had been miscarried, or that some accident had befallen them, as I could conceive of no reason for withholding them, or neglecting to send them; especially as I knew it to be a first principle with our Society, in the fullest manner to exchange opinions with every class of abolitionists, whether they be for or against the views held by us. But to the meeting.
In adopting the resolution, moved by Dr. Campbell,14John Campbell (1795–1867), a Congregational minister, was born in Scotland and attended the University of St. Andrews and the University of Glasgow. He was pastor of a church in Kilmarnock, Scotland, for twelve years before he moved to London in 1829 as co-pastor of the Tabernacle and Tottenham Court Road Chapels. He became editor of the Congregational Union’s Christian Witness in 1844 and later of the Christian’s Penny Magazine. In 1848 Campbell abandoned the pulpit to devote full time to editorial work, founding the British Banner, British Standard, and British Ensign between 1849 and 1860. At a public meeting in Finsbury Chapel on 22 May 1846, Campbell publicly urged Douglass to remain in England until American slavery was abolished and proposed that the British abolitionists raise money to pay for Douglass’s family to join him. Arrangements were made to receive donations at two locations in London. London Universe, 2 June 1846; George Smith, “The Late Rev. John Campbell, D.D.,” Christian Witness, 3:232–34 (May 1867); The Congregational Year Book, 1868 (London, 1868), 259–61; John Waddington, Congregational History, 1850–1880 (London, 1880), 8–16; DNB, 3:839. a new and better way is marked out. It asserts, as it should do, the duty and prerogative of British abolitionists to be, that of co-operating with, and encouraging, fellow-laborers in the United States of every anti-slavery creed. Let this
resolution be universally adopted and scrupulously adhered to, and there will be a happy termination to the bitter jarrings which have, during the last six years, marred and defaced the beauty and excellence of our noble work. Of course, this resolution does not pledge the British and Foreign A. S. Society to the principle contained in it, as it was only adopted at a public meeting; still, I believe the ground taken is one, upon which nine-tenths of all the abolitionists in this country are anxious to stand. They are, as they ought to be, unwilling to be understood as being unfriendly to any class or creed of anti-slavery men in the United States.
This has been a week of great activity with me. I have attended a meeting every day since I came into the city. On Monday, as I have before observed, I attended the anniversary of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. On Tuesday, I received an invitation, and spoke at a large and excellent meeting of the Peace Society.15On 19 May 1846, Douglass addressed the annual meeting of the Society for the Promotion of Universal and Permanent Peace, often dubbed the London Peace Society. British Quakers had taken the lead in forming the society in 1816, but it attracted members from a range of Protestant denominations. The society concentrated on propagating antiwar principles through tracts and its monthly periodical, the Herald of Peace. Joseph Sturge, Richard Cobden, and John Bright were the best-known figures associated with the society at the time of Douglass’s first British tour. The society survived into the twentieth century, when it changed its name to the International Peace Society. London Morning Advertiser, 20 May 1846; London Daily News, 20 May 1846; Peter Brock, Pacifism in Europe to 1914 (Princeton, N.J., 1972), 345–46, 378–80; Douglass Papers, ser. 1, 1:261–64. On Wednesday, I was invited to speak at a meeting of the complete Suffrage Association,16Douglass made a brief address on 20 May 1846 to a public meeting to endorse broadening the electoral franchise in Great Britain. This cause first arose in Great Britain in the 1830s. Quaker industrialist Joseph Sturge had been instrumental in 1841 in founding the Complete Suffrage Union, composed mainly of middle-class reformers, who preferred not to work directly with the more working-class “Chartist” groups advocating a “People’s Charter.” In the mid-1840s, the suffrage reform movement was in a temporary lull of activity, and the gathering that Douglass addressed, although Sturge was among its organizers, probably was of an ad hoc nature. London Morning Advertiser, 20 May 1846; London Daily News, 20 May 1846; Owen R. Ashton and Paul A. Pickering, Friends of the People: Uneasy Radicals in the Age of the Chartists (London, 2002), 4, 37–41; F. C. Mather, ed., Chartism and Society: An Anthology of Documents (London, 1980), 12, 31, 68–69, 221–25. called thus in contradistinction from the Chartist party,17The Chartist party in Britain gained wide support among the working class between 1838 and 1848. The name was taken from a charter of political demands drawn up at an 1838 meeting of the London Working Men’s Association. By 1839 Chartism became the first national workers' movement in British history. Created as a response to the changes in the economy brought by industrialization, Chartism attracted support in rural as well as urban areas. The Chartist party advocated parliamentary reform and demanded political rights through universal male suffrage because only a Parliament elected by the people could improve the economic and social conditions of the working and middle classes. Richard Brown and Christopher W. Daniels, The Chartists (London, 1984), 1–4; John Charlton, The Chartists: The First National Workers’ Movement (London, 1997), 1–3. and differing from that party, in that it repudiates the use of physical force as a means of attaining its object. I am persuaded that, after the complete triumph of the Anti-Corn Law18First enacted in 1815 during an agricultural depression following the Napoleonic Wars, the English Corn Laws established a system of graduated tariffs on foreign grain. Parliament applied these laws whenever the price of domestic grains fell, prohibiting the importation of foreign grain until the price of domestic grain rose and thereby keeping the price of British agricultural products artificially high. The politically powerful landed aristocracy opposed modification or repeal of the legislation, but agitation and public debate led by free-trade advocates, the Irish potato famine, and the simultaneous failure of the English wheat harvest resulted in repeal of the Corn Laws in June 1846. Norman McCord, The Anti–Corn Law League, 1838–1846 (London, 1958), 15–16, 96–103, 111–16, 188–207. movement, the next great reform will be that of complete suffrage. The agitation which this must occasion will be louder, deeper and stronger than that attending the Anti-Corn Law movement. It comprehends dearer interests than those involved in the repeal of the Corn Laws. It is quite easy to see, that, in the triumph of complete suffrage in this country, aristocratic rule must end—class legislation must cease—the law of primogeniture and entail,19Since the seventeenth century, the application of entailment and primogeniture had restricted the dispersion of estates in Great Britain. When a landowner entailed his estate to a son and ultimately a grandson, the land descended to them with limited ability to sell or divide it. If an owner died intestate, the eldest son inherited the entire estate under primogeniture. As members of the gentry expanded and consolidated their estates through purchase and inheritance, they wielded increasing political and social power. By the mid-nineteenth century, the application of primogeniture and entailment led to a situation in which a small elite owned the majority of the land. Reformers who worked to reverse the inﬂuence of these inheritance practices believed the gentry’s stranglehold on property lay at the root of many social problems, including the disappearance of independent land ownership and an increase in urbanization. J. V. Beckett, “The Pattern of Landownership in England and Wales, 1660–1880,” Economic History Review, 37:1–3, 7, 9, 19 (February 1985). the game laws,20English Game Laws reserved the right to hunt and pursue game to the landed classes. Prior to 1831, anyone who killed game as small as a rabbit had to own property worth £100 or hold a ninety-nine-year lease on land worth £50. Severe penalties were enacted for illegal hunting, and the sale of all game was banned. Reforms in 1831 relaxed restrictions on game hunting and sales; however, landlords could still reserve game on tenant land for their own use. As a result, many tenant farmers found their crops destroyed by wild game that they were helpless to control. The Game Laws came under attack in the 1840s from Anti–Corn Law Leaguers who saw a correlation between the Game and Corn Laws. Leaguers used the Game Laws as leverage, offering to stop the anti–Game Law agitation if the Corn Laws were repealed. This debate raged as Douglass arrived in Britain, but was partially resolved with the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. The Game Laws remained, but were revised in 1848 to allow tenants to kill rabbits without obtaining a permit if the landowner allowed. Chester Kirby, “The Attack on the English Game Laws in the Forties,” Journal of Modern History, 4:18–21, 34–36 (March 1932). &c. will be utterly swept from the statute book. When people and not property shall govern, people will cease to be subordinate to property.
In the triumph of this movement may be read the destruction of the time-hallowed alliance of Church and State.21During the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation, many Christians rejected the authority of the Roman pontiff. In England, Henry VIII led the creation of the Church of England or Anglican Church. The English monarch thereafter held the title “Supreme Governor of the Church of England” and claimed jurisdiction over the temporal affairs of the church. While most of the powers of the Anglican church were gradually transferred to the state, it retained considerable influence in such areas as marriage law, and its congregations and clergy received governmental subsidy. The Church of England’s special status extended over all of the British Isles except Scotland, where a Calvinist Church of Scotland remained the state-endorsed religion. Dissenting denominations pressed hard for the disestablishment of the Church of England, but succeeded only in Ireland in 1869 and Wales in 1914. Robert E. Rodes, Law and Modernization in the Church of England: Charles II to the Welfare State (South Bend, Ind., 1991), 147. The opposition to the gross injustice of compelling a man to support a form of worship, in which he not only feels no interest, but which he really hates, is great and increasing. The brilliant success of the Anti-Corn Law League has convinced the people of their power. The demand for the separation of Church and State, which is now but whispered, must sooner or later be heard in tones of thunder. The battle will be hot, but the right must triumph. God grant that they may make a better use of their political freedom, than the working people of the United States have hitherto done!—For, instead of taking sides with the oppressed, they have acted the unnatural and execrable part of the vilest
oppressors. They stand forth in the front ranks of tyranny, and, with words of freedom on their deceitful lips, have given victory to a party, the chief pride, boast and glory of which is that of having blasted one of the fairest portions of our common earth with slavery. It is but just to the friends of political freedom here to say, that they regard the hypocritical pretenders to democratic freedom in America with absolute contempt, and ineffable disgust. The time was, when America was known abroad as the land of the free, but that time is past. No intelligent and honest man, whose love of liberty does not depend on the color of a man’s skin, ever thinks of America in connection with freedom, but with abhorrence. Slavery gives character to the American people. It dictates their laws, gives tone to their literature, and shapes their religion. It stands up in their midst, the only sovereign power in the land. The friends of freedom here look upon America as one of the greatest obstacles in the way of political freedom, as she is now the great fact, illustrating the alleged truth, that the tyrant many are even more tyrannical than the tyrant few.
On Thursday, I accepted an invitation to attend and speak at the anniversary meeting of the National Temperance Society,22Douglass and fourteen other lecturers addressed the anniversary meeting of the National Temperance Society held at London’s Exeter Hall on 21 May 1846. London National Temperance Chronicle and Recorder, June 1846. held in the far-famed Exeter Hall.23Many abolitionist meetings took place in Exeter Hall, a popular assembly site in London. Constructed between 1830 and 1831 by J. P. Gandy-Deering to hold religious meetings and sacred concerts, it could accommodate 3,000, making it a popular location for the “May Meetings” of British reform groups. W. W. Hutchings and Ford Madox Ford, London Town Past and Present, 2 vols. (London, 1909), 2:604; Henry Benjamin Wheatley and Peter Cunningham, London, Past and Present: Its History, Associations, and Traditions, 3 vols. (London, 1891), 2:26. It was a splendid meeting. A resolution was adopted, proposing a World’s Convention to be held in London, some time during the month of August. It was supported by Mr. Joseph Sturge and myself.24During the anniversary meeting of the National Temperance Society, Sturge spoke in response to a motion by the Reverend Benjamin Parsons urging support for the upcoming World’s Temperance Convention in London. Sturge argued that the values of temperance were inconsistent with slavery, and therefore slaveholders should be barred from attending the convention. He went so far as to offer a donation to the National Temperance Society on the condition that no proslavery advocates attend the meeting, regardless of their stand on temperance. London Teetotaler, 30 May 1846; London National Temperance Chronicle and Recorder, June 1846. I mention this, simply to call attention to a noble testimony borne by Mr. Sturge against slaveholders—a testimony which must have the best effect, just now. Sturge is a thorough temperance man, and gives largely in support of the cause. While speaking of the proposed Convention, and of the possibility of slaveholders being admitted into it as members, he declared that, if slaveholders were admitted, he would not sit in the Convention, or aid it in any way whatever. He had contemplated giving the Society £50; but he must find some other benevolent object upon which to bestow that sum, if slaveholders were admitted into the Convention. Subsequently, Mr. Alexander,25A Quaker reformer and a member of a prominent banking family, George William Alexander (1802–90) supported abolition, temperance, free labor, and free produce. He lectured frequently at antislavery and reform meetings, and he served as treasurer of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. At the Finsbury Chapel meeting, Alexander seconded a resolution that thanked Douglass for his antislavery efforts and called upon all abolitionists to unite against the evil of slavery. In his remarks Alexander declared that, like Joseph Sturge, he would contribute money to, but not be seated at, any temperance convention that allowed slaveholders to attend. BFASR, 1 June, 2 November 1846; Lib., 26 June 1846; London Times, 11 August 1846; Turley, Culture of English Antislavery, 9–10, 59. a friend of temperance, and a member of the Society of Friends, has taken the same ground. These sentiments were loudly applauded by the meeting. The feeling of 'NO UNION WITH SLAVEHOLDERS' is becoming more and more general in London, and throughout eonntry. Americas: slaveholders must prepare, not only to be exclcluded from the communion of British Christians, but peremptorily driven from the platform of every philanthropic association. Let them be hemmed in on every side. Let them be placed beyond the pale of respectability, and, standing out separated, alone in their infamy, let the storm
gather over them, and its hottest bolts descend. Our justification is ample:—the slaveholder is a man-stealer.
I ought to have said, while speaking of the anti-slavery meeting at Finsbury Chapel, that Dr. Campbell suggested that, in as much as it would be of some importance to the anti-slavery cause to have me remain in this country longer than I could be induced to remain, absent from my family, measures be at once taken, by which a sufficient amount could be realized to enable me to bring my family to this country. This suggestion being seconded by my friend Mr. Thompson, in a very few minutes between £80 and £90 were contributed for the purpose. This result was entirely unexpected to me. I had not even mentioned my desire for any such thing to the meeting. I had said, however, to Mr. Thompson, and also to Mr. Sturge, that I could not remain absent from my family more than one year, and that I must go home in August, unless I should decide to bring my family to this country; and this may have led to the suggestion by Dr. Campbell.
I have just received a letter from Mr. Sturge, the chairman of the meeting at which the money was raised, saying he will cause to be forwarded to any person whom I may mention as my friend in the United States, five hundred dollars, to be appropriated to the removal of my family to this country. So I rest in the hope of soon being joined by my family in a land where they will not be constantly harassed by the apprehension, that some foul imp of a slaveholder may lay his infernal clutch upon me, and tear me from their midst. Master Hugh26Born in Talbot County, Maryland, Hugh Auld (1799–1861) moved to Baltimore as a young man. There, with his wife Sophia Keithley, he worked as a ship’s carpenter, master shipbuilder, and shipyard foreman, and occasionally served as a magistrate. Between 1826 and 1833, and again between 1836 and 1838, Douglass lived and worked in their household, lent to them by his owner, Hugh’s brother Thomas. In 1845, incensed by Douglass’s depiction of his family in the Narrative, Hugh Auld bought Douglass from Thomas Auld. According to the Pennsylvania Freeman, Auld was determined to reenslave Douglass and “place him in the cotton fields of the South” if the fugitive ever returned to the United States. In 1846 the British abolitionists Anna and Ellen Richardson raised $711.66 (£150 sterling) from British reformers and offered to buy Douglass’s freedom from Auld. Auld agreed to the sale and signed the manumission papers that made Douglass a free man. PaF, 26 February 1846; Lib., 6 March 1846; Walter Lourie to Ellis Gray Loring, 15 December 1846, reel 1, frame 644; Benjamin F. Auld to Douglass, 11, 27 September 1891, reel 6, frames 240–41, 257–58; Douglass to Benjamin F. Auld, 16 September 1891, reel 6, frames 246–47; J. C. Schaffer to Helen Pitts Douglass, 21 October 1896, reel 8, frames 92–93, all in General Correspondence File, FD Papers, DLC; Talbot County Records, V.60, 35–36, MdTCH (a copy is found on reel 1, frames 637–39, FD Papers, DLC); Hugh Auld Family Genealogical Chart, prepared by Carl G. Auld, Ellicott City, Md., 5 June 1976; Preston, Young Frederick Douglass, 81, 84–85, 92, 143, 173–75. must bear the loss of my service one year longer, and it may be, I shall remain absent two years. Please send him a paper containing this announcement, and exhort him to patience. It may serve to ease, if not cure, his anxious mind. He must feel my absence keenly, and must suffer greatly; for of all pain, I believe that of suspense is the most severe. By the way, one of the charges I have preferred against master Thomas Auld, and one which he seems the most angry about, respects his meanness; and the fact illustrative of this trait brought forward in my Narrative, is that he once owned a young woman, a cousin of mine, whose right hand had been so burnt as to make it useless to her through life—and finding this young woman of little or no value to him, he very generously gave her to his sister Sarah.27Sarah Auld Cline (1811–?) was the fifth daughter of Hugh and Zipporah Auld and was the sister of Thomas. Auld Family Bible (courtesy of Dickson Preston). Seized, I suppose, with a similar fit of benevolence, he has transferred his legal right of property in my body and soul, to his less fortunate brother Hugh. And master Hugh (for so I suppose I must call him,) seems to be very proud of the gift, and means to play the part of a hungry blood-hound in catching me. Possess your soul in
patience, dear master Hugh, and regale yourself on the golden dreams afforded by the prospect—‘First catch your rabbit,’ &c. &c.28“First catch your hare” is a proverb recorded as early as c. 1300. Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 3rd ed. (Oxford, Eng., 1979), 229.
But I am wandering. My visit to this city has been exceedingly gratifying, on account of the freedom I have enjoyed in visiting such places of instruction and amusement as those from which I have been carefully excluded by the inveterate prejudice against color in the United States. Botanic and Zoological gardens, Museums and Panoramas, Halls of Statuary and Galleries of Paintings, are as free to the black as the white man in London. There is no distinction on account of color. The white man gains nothing by being white, and the black man loses nothing by being black. ‘A man’s a man for a’ that.’29Line 12 of the song “For A’ That and A’ That,” by Robert Burns. Burns, Poems and Songs, 482. I went on Tuesday morning, in company with Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, to see Cremore Garden,30Originally a farm estate in the Chelsea area of London, Cremorne Gardens was a sports venue in the 1830s, but was transformed into a twelve-acre pleasure garden during the mid-1840s. The gardens included lawns and trees, statuary, fountains, refreshment stands, and tables. In 1846 a theater, banquet hall, and dance pagoda were built for the enjoyment of shopgirls and the middle and upper-middle classes. Cremorne House became a hotel that served half-crown suppers. Admission to Cremorne Gardens cost one shilling, and a season ticket went for one or two guineas. In the 1860s and 1870s, the pleasure garden gained a seedy reputation, which led to its closing and eventual sale to developers. Peter Cunningham, A Handbook for London, Past and Present (London, 1849), 114; Herbert Fry, comp., London: Its Stones and Commercial Landmarks in 1916 (London, 1916), 190–92; Warwick Wroth, Cremorne and the Later London Gardens (London, 1907), 1–12, 19–23. a place of recreation and amusement—a most beautiful and picturesque spot, delightfully situated on the bank of the Thames, at the west end of the city. I was admitted without a whisper of objection on the part of the proprietor or spectators. Every one looked as though they thought I had as much right there as themselves, and not the slightest dislike was manifested toward me on account of my negro origin, unless a gentleman from Boston, who was in the Garden while I was there, be an exception—and I will not say that he was. He had just brought to the Garden a panorama of Boston,31Panoramas, which ﬁrst emerged in the 1780s and enjoyed great popularity in the nineteenth century, depicted landscapes with impeccable accuracy, usually in a 360-degree perspective. Visitors, often those of the educated middle class, paid to see panoramas in order to be transported to a different place and time. To achieve this illusion, painters painstakingly reproduced scenes from detailed sketches or photographs. Full–sized panoramas, which ranged up to 6,000 square feet and weighed eight tons when complete, required large, dedicated rotundas for viewing. From Douglass’s description of the Boston panorama, it is likely that the artist intended to exhibit a small-scale work, perhaps a “cosmorama.” Unlike their full-sized counterparts, these paintings were transportable, measured about twenty feet long and under four feet high, and could be displayed in a rented exhibit room. Stephan Oettermann, The Panorama: History of a Mass Medium (New York, 1997), 5–6, 49, 51–52, 57, 69. rolled up in a long case, which was so heavy as to require eight men to carry it. Soon after its arrival, the proprietor told me what it was. I then said I knew Boston, and should be glad to see a panorama of it, but was informed it would not be presented for exhibition for two or three weeks, as the place was not quite ready for it. My American friend, whom I took to be the artist, on learning that I knew Boston, at once made toward me, without the slightest ceremony or circumlocution ordinarily resorted to by gentlemen when approaching a stranger, and bolting up to me, he asked, in much the same tone which a white man employs when addressing a slave by the way-side—‘Well, boy, who do you belong to?’—‘Do you know Boston?’ ‘Yes, Sir.’ ‘Well, if you know Boston, you know it is the handsomest city in the world!’ This left me without a doubt as to the Yankee origin of my friend, [and I] felt quite at home in his presence. He eloquently descanted on the beauties of Boston, quoting various authorities as proof of his position, that Boston is the most beautiful city in the world. I replied, that Boston is a very handsome city, but I thought not the handsomest in the world—and proceeded to speak of Edinburgh. But a very few moments convinced me, that my patriotic friend had no ear for the praise of any other city than Boston; so we separated. We, however, met again in the course of half an hour,
when his tone was quite altered, and his manner quite changed. We had a very pleasant interview. He asked if my name was Douglass, and being answered in the affirmative, expressed pleasure at seeing me, and said he had frequently heard of me since he came to this country.
There is one remarkable peculiarity in all the Americans with whom I have had the pleasure to meet on this side of the Atlantic, and that is, their adaptability to circumstances! Persons, who would feel themselves disgraced by being seen conversing with me in Boston, find no difficulty in being seated at the same table with me in London!
On Wednesday, I went to see the ‘assembled wisdom’ of this great nation—Parliament. Through the kindness of my friend George Thompson, I gained admission to the Speaker’s Gallery, which is quite a privilege. Here I found myself beside the Rev. Mr. Kirk,32Edward Norris Kirk (1802–74) was pastor at Mount Vernon Congregational Church in Boston when Douglass met him in 1846. Kirk served both Congregational and New School Presbyterian congregations after studying at Princeton Theological Seminary and attaining his doctor of divinity degree from Amherst College. After serving as an agent for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions from 1826 until 1828, Kirk spent nine years preaching in Albany, New York, where Charles G. Finney and Gerrit Smith numbered among his guest lecturers. Kirk supported a number of reform causes, including temperance and public schooling. Although Kirk generally supported abolition, Douglass and Garrison condemned him because he did not denounce slavery. Between 1837 and 1842, he traveled widely in Europe and the United States as a revivalist. In 1846 he was in London to help organize the Evangelical Alliance. John Ross Dix, Pulpit Portraits; or, Pew-Pictures of Distinguished American Divines (Boston, 1854), 237–45; David O. Means, Life of Edward Norris Kirk, D.D. (Boston, 1877); “Edward Norris Kirk, DD.,” American Missionary, 49:5–6 (January 1895); Taylor, British and American Abolitionists, 277; ACAB, 3:553–54; NCAB, 6:194; DAB, 10:427–28. of Boston, who seemed in no way shocked at being seated on the same bench with a negro, but rather pleased with having met me. I was fortunate in the choice of the time of going, for I could not have selected three hours when I could have heard a greater number of distinguished members. A bill was before the House, for restricting the hours of factory labor.33At the time of Douglass’s visit, Parliament was debating a factory bill to reduce regular work hours for women and children to eleven hours per day for one year, and then to ten hours per day after August 1847. Called the Ten Hours Act, the law passed in May 1846. London Nonconformist, 6 May 1846; G. D. H. Cole, A Short History of the British Working-Class Movement, 1789–1947 (London, 1948), 143, 177; Ursula R. Q. Henriques, The Early Factory Acts and Their Enforcement (London, 1971), 15–17. Sir James Graham,34Sir James Robert George Graham (1792–1861) served in the House of Commons as a Whig (1818–20) and as a Liberal (1826–61) and was the English secretary of state in 1846. Although Graham sometimes wavered on reform issues, he made significant contributions. For example, he helped prepare the First Reform Bill in 1830, and he imposed financial reforms as first lord of the Admiralty (1830–34). He also supported repeal of the Corn Laws after the onset of the Irish potato famine in 1845. Taylor, British and American Abolitionists, 294; DNB, 8:328–32. Sir John Hobhouse,35John Cam Hobhouse (1786–1869), Baron Broughton, was a member of British parliament who supported regulation of factory labor, various legal reforms, and especially parliamentary reform. Appointed secretary of war in 1832 and chief secretary for Ireland in 1833, Hobhouse Served in Parliament and various cabinet positions until his retirement in 1852. Robert E. Zegger, John Cam Hobhouse: A Political Life, 1819–1852 (Columbia, Mo., 1973), 34–37, 284–89; DNB, 9:941–44. Lord George Bentinck,36William George Frederic Cavendish Bentinck (1802–48), commonly called Lord George Bentinck, was a member of Parliament from a political family. Both his grandfather, William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, third Duke of Portland, and uncle, George Canning, served as prime minister. Bentinck joined Parliament in 1828 and remained a member until his death. Although Bentinck supported the Catholic Emancipation Bill, he opposed free trade. In particular he fought against repeal of the Corn Laws, declaring in 1845 that there was no famine in Ireland and thus no need to repeal protective tariffs. DNB, 2:297–302. son of the Duke of Portland, Mr. Gisbourne,37Thomas Grisborne (1794–1852), a radical Whig politician, served as a member of the House of Commons in the 1830s and 1840s. Known as a vigorous speaker, he advocated free trade, the expansion of suffrage, and the abolition of church rates. DNB, 7:1281. Mr. Wakely,38Thomas Wakeley (1795–1862), a British reform politician and physician, represented Finsbury in the House of Commons. As former editor of the Lancet, a radical medical journal, he concentrated on medical reforms, including an 1846 law to license physicians in Britain and Ireland. DNB, 20:461–65. Mr. Farrend,39William Ferrand (1809–89) was a Conservative party member of Parliament. In 1846 he voted for agricultural protection. Michael Stenton and Stephen Lees, eds., Who’s Who of British Members of Parliament, 4 vols. (Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1976–81), 1:138. Mr. John Bright,40John Bright (1811–89), a member of the House of Commons and known for great oratory, supported free trade and repeal of the Corn Laws. Although his radical stands on church disestablishment, parliamentary reform, and foreign nonintervention prevented him from rising to leadership of the Liberal party, he held his seat for many years. During the American Civil War, Bright favored the North and brought the opinion of the British middle and working classes to his side. Late in his career, his opposition to Irish home rule and to most factory legislation led to a growing political isolation from younger Liberal reformers. Keith Robbins, John Bright (London, 1979); Herman Susubel, John Bright: Victorian Reformer (New York, 1966); George Macaulay Trevelyan, The Life of John Bright (Boston, 1925); Ephraim D. Adams, Great Britain and the American Civil War, 2 vols. (New York, 1925), 1:58, 108–10, 221–22, 2:132–34; DNB, 22:273–91. Mr. Crawford,41William Sherman Crawford (1781–1861), a radical British politician, served as a member of the House of Commons for the Irish districts of Dundalk and later Rochdale. He advocated Catholic Emancipation and fought for the rights of Irish tenants. DNB, 5:58–59. Mr. Brotherton,42Joseph Brotherton (1783–1857) served as the Salford representative to the House of Commons, where he advocated free trade, temperance, and numerous other reforms. Brotherton penned several essays on the importance of abstaining from liquors and animal food, which were reprinted in the United States. DNB, 2:1354. Sir Robert Peel,43Sir Robert Peel (1788–1850), second baronet and Conservative statesman, began his political career in the House of Commons at the age of twenty-one. During his career, he held office as chief secretary for Ireland, home secretary, first secretary of the Treasury, chancellor of the Exchequer, and twice as prime minister (1834–35, 1841–46). John Cannon, ed., Oxford Companion to British History (Oxford, Eng., 1997), 737–38; Mitchell, Victorian Britain, 585–86; Connolly, Oxford Companion to Irish History, 437; DNB, 15:655–68. Lord John Russell,44Lord John Russell (1792–1878), first Earl Russell, was a Whig-Liberal statesman. A champion of political and social reforms during his lengthy career, he served as British prime minister from 1846 to 1852 and from 1865 to 1866. He also held office as home secretary (1835–39), colonial secretary (1839–41, 1855), and foreign secretary (1852–53, 1859–65). Cannon, Oxford Companion to British History, 828–29; DNB, 17:454–65. and several other members, addressed the House on the subject. When the vote was to be taken, the galleries were cleared, so that the spectator is not allowed to see who votes for or against a measure. I was much pleased with the respectful manner with which members spoke of each other. Never having enjoyed the privilege of witnessing the legislative proceedings of our great nation, I cannot say in what respect they differ, or in what respect the one is to be preferred to the other. All I know is, if I should presume to go into Washington as I have into London, and enter Congress as I have done the House of Parliament, the ardent defenders of democratic liberty would at once put me into prison, on suspicion of having been ‘created contrary to the Declaration of American Independence.’ On failing to prove a negative, I should be sold into slavery, to pay my jail fees! ‘Hail, Columbia, happy land!’45“Hail Columbia, happy land!” opens the patriotic hymn “Hail Columbia,” written in 1798 by Joseph Hopkinson and set to the music of Philip Phile’s “President’s March.” One verse of an antislavery version declared: “Then let the glorious anthem peal! / And drown 'Britannia rules the waves' / Strike up the song that men can feel / Columbia rules four million slaves!” Philadelphia Porcupine’s Gazette, 28 April 1798; Vera Brodsky Lawrence, Music for Patriots, Politicians, and Presidents: Harmonies and Discords of the First One Hundred Years (New York, 1975), 142–45; William Wells Brown, The Black Man, His Antecedents, His Genius, and His Achievements (1863; Alexandria, Va., 1987), 282. Under these circumstances, my republican friends must not think strange, when I say I would rather be in London than Washington. Liberty in Hyde Park46Taking its name from an ancient manor near Knightsbridge, Hyde Park is a 388-acre green space and park in London located between Whitehall and Kensington. Cunningham, Handbook for London, 240–41; Fry, London, 116–17. is better than democracy in a slave prison—monarchical freedom is better than republican slavery—things are better than names. I prefer the substance to the shadow.
Since I came to this city, I have had the honor to be made a member of
the Free Trade Club,47Two members of Parliament, Richard Cobden and John Bright, established the Free Trade Club, located at 14 St. James Square, London, in order to promote free trade. The entrance fee and annual dues were each five guineas. Cunningham, Handbook for London, lxxix. composed in part of some of the most distinguished and inﬂuential gentlemen in the kingdom. But I must not speak of this, lest I should rouse the ire of the New-York Express, or provoke the fiery indignation of Bennett’s Herald.48Founder, publisher, and editor of the New York Herald, James Gordon Bennett (1795–1872) helped foster American popular journalism. Born in Scotland and educated for the Roman Catholic priesthood, Bennett emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1819. Positions in Boston and New York led him to a career in journalism. From 1826 to 1829, he served as the associate editor and Washington correspondent of the New York Examiner, and in 1831 he became associate editor of James Watson Webb’s Morning Courier and New York Enquirer. In 1835, after several unsuccessful efforts to become a publisher and editor in his own right, Bennett established the Herald, a daily paper that sold for one cent a copy. Others had tried “penny-press” journalism, but Bennett’s Herald was the first major success in that business. He frequently ridiculed abolitionists, who retaliated in kind. Oliver Carlson, The Man Who Made the News (New York, 1942); Isaac C. Pray, Memoirs of James Gordon Bennett and His Times (New York, 1855), 331–45; Don C. Seitz, The James Gordon Bennetts, Father and Son: Proprietors of the New York “Herald” (Indianapolis, Ind., 1928), 110–18; DAB, 2:195–99.
I have enjoyed a fine opportunity of becoming acquainted with Mr. George Thompson. I have been with him in private and in public—at home and abroad—when in the heat of intense excitement, and when mantled with the most tranquil repose—and in all circumstances, I have found him equal to the highest estimate I had formed of the man. He is the first great orator of whom I had formed a very high opinion, on the first hearing of whom I did not feel a degree of disappointment. He is far above any opinion I had formed of him. I have found him to be, emphatically, the man of every meeting which I have attended since I came to London. The announcement of his name is attended with demonstrations of applause, such as are seldom called forth by the mention of any other name.
Mr. Thompson is now deeply engaged in exposing the corrupt and despotic rule of the East India Company, and his labors in that department are equal to all his time and strength. Yet, such is his devotion to the cause of the American slave, that he is resolved to devote one or two weeks more to the agitation now going on in Scotland, against Christian fellowship with slaveholders, to induce the Free Church to send back the blood-stained money. As usual, you see him battling for the right.
But I must close this already too lengthy letter, or I would say more of this friend of God and man. Long may he live to plead the cause of our common humanity—to open his mouth for the dumb—to demand liberty for the heart-broken captive, unconditional emancipation for the whip scared slave, succor for the afﬂicted, mercy for the suffering, and justice for the oppressed!
Yours to the end,
PLSr: Lib., 26 June 1846. Reprinted in PaF, 2 July 1846; JNH, 10:678–86 (October 1925); Woodson, Mind of the Negro, 414–22; Foner, Life and Writings, 1:165–73. HLSr: General Correspondence File, reel 1, frames 596–610, FD Papers, DLC.