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Frederick Douglass to Elizabeth Pease, July 6, 1846

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FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO ELIZABETH PEASE

Belfast, [Ire]1The placeline of the letter also includes “Victoria Hotel.” 6 July 1846.

To Elezebeth Pease
DEAR FRIEND:
Yours of the 4th instant has just reached me.2Elizabeth Pease’s 4 July 1846 letter to Douglass has not been located. I was glad, very glad to hear from you through a letter direct from your pen. The pleasure of making your acquaintance was far from being the least I anticipated, when I made up my mind to visit this land. I became acquainted with you through your letter to the Liberator very early after my escape from slavery3On 25 September 1840, a letter from Elizabeth Pease to William Lloyd Garrison appeared in the Liberator. In that letter, she had enclosed another from Thomas Clarkson on colonization and given sundry items of news about the antislavery movement in England. This was the first letter from Pease to appear in the Liberator after Douglass’s escape from slavery on 8 September 1838. Douglass might also be referring to one of the letters from Pease that appeared in the 30 October 1840, 25 March, 2 May, 30 July 1841, or 20 May 1842 issues.—and was led to come and admier you in company with the devoted few who remained true to principle in those times of trial. I am well aware of the affliction through which you have recently past4Elizabeth Pease’s father, Joseph Pease (1772—1846), died in early June 1846. Joseph Pease, a Darlington textile manufacturer, was the first Quaker member of Parliament, a founder of both the Peace Society and the British India Society, and a member of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. Merrill and Ruchames, Garrison Letters, 3:344—45; Taylor, British and American Abolitionists, 71; DNB, 15:623.—and as far as one in my circumstances could—I have sympathised with you. I have felt very unpleasant at the thought of being in the country, nearly a year without a single friendly word having past between us. I have several times heard from you through your letters to friend Wright5Henry C. Wright. and Buffum,6James N. Buffum. and of course knew you had not lost your interest in the cause of the Slave or in its advocates but still I wanted a word to myself—a friendly word that I as a stranger I could treasure up as coming from the Slave’s friend Elizabeth Pease. I gave my letter of introduction to my friend J. N. B. when he parted with me at Cork last autumn.”7Douglass lectured in Cork throughout the month of October 1845 before moving north to Belfast. In November 1845 Douglass wrote, “Friend Buffum left me on the 2lst October.” Buffum then traveled to Liverpool, England. Lib., 28 November, 12 December 1845; Douglass Papers, ser. 1, 1:71. Or I should have sent it accompanied by a letter from my own hand—but since that oppertunity passed me and the afflicting events transpiring to which you refer I have felt shut out from you. But now Dear friend may I not hope the “winter is past[”] and that “the rain is over, and gone.’ [’]8Song of Sol. 2:11. We have immediate and pressing duties to perform. We should in the language of Longfellow9Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807—82), a writer and professor of modern languages at Bowdoin and Harvard, began publishing poetry in 1835. He published a volume every two years until his death, with one volume appearing posthumously. His most famous works include Hyperion (1839), Evangeline (1847), The Song of Hiawatha (1855), The Courtship of Miles Standish, and Other Poems (1858), and Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863). He also wrote many antislavery poems, which appeared in the volume Poems on Slavery (1842). Newton Arvin, Longfellow: His Life and Work (Boston, 1963); ANB, 13:886—89; DAB, 11:382—87.

Trust no future how-er pleasant!
Let the dead past bury its dead!
Act—act in the living present!
Heart within, and God o-er head.10The sixth stanza of Longfellow’s poem “A Psalm of Life.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poems and Other Writings, ed. J. D. McClatchy (New York, 2000), 3—4.

I am anxcious to see you and speak with you on many subjects in which I know you to be interested.11Douglass and Pease had not yet met at the time that he wrote this letter. They probably met sometime in August or September 1846 when Douglass Visited Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North Shields, and Birmingham, all of which were near Pease’s home in Darlington. Newcastle Guardian, 15 August 1846; Birmingham Journal, 5 September 1846. You ask me if I go with friend Garrison on the nonresistant principle. In answer, I think there is a slight difference be-

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tween us. I am against taking life—against all war offensive or defensive—against retaliation of every kind, and yet I can concieve of circumstances when it would not only be right but our bounden duty to use Physical force to restrain persons bent upon the commission of crime. But about this we may speak face to face should a kind Providence permit us to meet. I may say that although I do not go the whole length of repudiating the use of physical force I am regarded in the US. as being in the fullest manner identified with the nonresistant school of reformers.

Friend Buffum is gone to America. I parted with him at Liverpool on the fourth July—he left in good spirits—apparently well satisfied with his visit. The Hutchinson family of whom I presume you have heard, went in the same vesel.12Buffum and the Hutchinsons returned from their tour of Great Britain to the United States aboard the Cambria on 17 July 1846. Lib., 24 July 1846 There is every reason to hope they will have a safe and pleasant voyage. While I was in Liverpool awaiting thier departure I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Jacob Bright and his sister Hester13Jacob Bright (1821—99), a Quaker and textile manufacturer, represented Manchester in Parliament. He was the brother of parliamentarian John Bright and, after 1855, the husband of women’s rights activist Ursula Mellor Bright, whose causes he helped support from his position in the House of Commons. Hester, or Esther (?—1850), was one of his four sisters, and she later married Sir James Vaughn. Trevelyan, John Bright, 22—23, 101, 106; Mitchell, Victorian Britain, 93; DNB, 22:273. by whom I was invited to visit Rochedale.14The town of Rochdale, a center of the textile industry, lay just northeast of Manchester and was the home of the Bright family since 1802. Cohen, Columbia Gazetteer, 3:2627; DNB, 22:273. Miss Hester seemed astonished when I told her I had not seen you or held any corrispondence with you since I came into the country. She said to me you have of course seen Elizebeth Pease and spoke of your efforts in the Slave’s cause with cordial regard. I was very much pleased with what I saw of them. I had a delightful meeting with Elihu Burritt15Elihu Burritt (1810—79), the “learned blacksmith,” taught himself several languages and various sciences while working in a smithy. Born into poverty in New Britain, Connecticut, Burritt made a career of advocating pacifism, temperance, cheap international postage, and abolitionism. A tireless champion of world peace, Burritt joined the American Peace Society in the early 18403 and in 1846 went to England, where he formed the League of Universal Brotherhood, disseminated peace propaganda through his “Olive Leaf Mission,” and helped organize two international peace congresses. Opposed to the American Civil War because of his pacifism, Burritt determined to undermine slavery by boycotting slave-grown produce, and he later urged schemes for compensated emancipation. During his career he edited several reform newspapers, the most notable being the Christian Citizen (1844—51). Elihu Burritt, The Learned Blacksmith: The Letters and Journals of Elihu Burritt, ed. Merle E. Curti (New York, 1937); Peter Tolis, Elihu Burritt, Crusader for Brotherhood (Hamden, Conn., 1968); Shepperson, “Free Church and American Slavery,” 133; DAB, 3:328. in Manchester on Thursday last.16Douglass attended a meeting of the Anti-Corn Law League in Manchester on 2 July 1846. Edinburgh Scotsman, 8 July 1846. I have seldom met with an American in whose presence I felt more at home. They are all more Or less tainted with prejudice against color so that I generally feel like keeping my distance from them—for fear of being repulsed. Persons who seemed in America—pretty free from that feeling—when compared with people here—disclose the taints. They have it—but don’t know it. They speak to and of colored people differently, from what they do of & to persons of their own complexion. A letter will reach Mr. Burritt if Directed to care Joseph Sturge Birmingham. He is in frequent corrispondence with Mr. Sturge. You might like to know my Plans for the future. These so far as I now know them, are as follows. I shall remain here about one week longer —and proceed from this to Scotland and shall labour in Scotland till the first of august[.] I shall then make my way toward London—stopping a few days in New Castle and North Sheilds,—and such other Towns as lay in my way, and in which I may be invited to lecture.17Douglass spoke in Belfast on 8 July 1846, and in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North Shields, Bristol, London, Exeter, and Bridgewater throughout August. London Morning Herald, 8 August 1846; Bristol Gazette, 27 August 1846; Bristol Mercury, 29 August 1846; Bridgewater Times, 3 September 1846; London Inquirer, 5 September 1846.

Hoping soon to be cheered in my lonely Pilgrimage by a line from you I subscribe myself Sincerely Yours in the cause of rightious freedom
FREDERICK DOUGLASS.

ALS: Villard Family Papers, MH—H.

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Date

July 6, 1846

Type

Publication Status

Published