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Frederick Douglass to John Thadeus Delane, 3 April 1847

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FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO JOHN THADEUS DELANE1John Thadeus Delane (1817–79) edited the London Times from 1841 until 1877. Delane was only twenty-three years old when he took the editor’s chair after graduating from Oxford University in 1839. As a general supporter of liberal movements, Delane was better known as a mediating force between rival political factions and retained close ties with parliamentarians and cabinet members. William Dodgson Bowman, The Story of “The Times” (New York, 1931), 150–53; The History of the “Times,” 4 vols. (1935–52; Millwood, N.Y., 1985), 1:446, 2:4–5, 50–59; DNB, 5:756–58.

Liverpool, [Eng.]2The placeline of this letter also includes “Brown’s Temperance Hotel.” 3 April [1847].

SIR, —

I take up my pen to lay before you a few facts respecting an unjust proscription to which I find myself subjected on board the steam-ship Cambria,3Douglass relayed the events concerning his voyage on the Cambria in a similar letter to William Lloyd Garrison, dated 21 April 1847. That letter also appears in this volume. to sail from this port at 10 o’clock towmorrow morning for Boston, United States.

On the 4th of March last, in company with Mr. George Moxhay, of the Hall of Commerce, London, I called upon Mr. Ford, the London agent of the Cunard line of steamers, for the purpose of securing a passage on board the steam ship Cambria to Boston, United States. On inquiring the amount of the passage I was told 40l. 19s.;4Some newspapers that reprinted this letter conveyed the cost as £40 19s. I inquired further, if a second class passage could be obtained. He answered no, there was but one fare, all distinctions having been abolished. I then gave him 40l. 19s. and received from him in return a ticket entitling me to berth No. 72 on board the steamship Cambria, at the same time asking him if my colour would prove any barrier to my enjoying all the rights and privileges enjoyed by other passengers. He said “No.” I then left the office, supposiwg all well, and thought nothing more of the matter until this morning, when in company with a few friends, agreeably to public notice, I went on board the Cambria with my luggage, and on inquiring for my berth, found, to my surprise and mortification, that it had been given to another passenger, and was told that the agent in London had acted without authority in selling me the ticket. I expressed my surprise and disappointment to the captain,5Captain Charles H. E. Judkins. and inquired what

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I had better do in the matter. He suggested my accompanying him to the office of the agent in Water-street, Liverpool, for the purpose of ascertaining what could be done. On stating the fact of my having purchased the ticket of the London agent, Mr. M’Iver6Charles McIver (1811–85) was the brother of David, one of the founders of the Cunard Line. The brothers were the head of business operations of the steamship line in Liverpool from 1845 until Charles’s retirement in 1883. John A. Butler, Atlantic Kingdom: America’s Contest with Cunard in the Age of Sail and Steam (Washington, D.C., 2001), 85, 158, 18–190, 218; History of the Cunard Steamship Company (London, 1886), 17. (the Liverpool agent) answered that the London agent, in selling me the ticket, had acted without authority, and that I should not go on board the ship unless I agreed to take my meals alone, not to mix with the saloon company, and to give up the berth for which I had paid. Being without legal remedy, and anxious to return to the United States, I have felt it due to my own rights as a man, as well as to the honour and dignity of the British public, to lay these facts before them, sincerely believing that the British public will pronounce a just verdict on such proceedings.7Douglass’s acquiescence in this segregation provoked more public discussion than had his stormy confrontations with proslavery Cambria passengers twenty months earlier. On 13 April 1847, responding to public pressure, Samuel Cunard announced that “nothing of the kind will again take place in steamships with which I am connected.” London Times, 6, 8, 13, 17 April 1847; Lib., 14 May 1847; Newcastle-upon-Tyne Christian, 3:518–22 (1 June 1847); British Friend, 5:16–17 (May 1847); Fry, North Atlantic Steam Navigation, 56–57. I have travelled in this country 19 months, and have always enjoyed equal rights and privileges with other passengers, and it was not until I turned my face towards America that I met with anything like proscription on account of my colour.

Yours respectfully,

FREDERICK DOUGLASS.

PLSr: London Times, 6 April 1847. Reprinted in Bristol Gazette, 8 April 1847; London Patriot, 8 April 1847; Bristol Mercury and Western Counties Advertiser, 10 April 1847; NASS, 13 May 1847; Philadelphia Non-Slaveholder, June 1847; London Christian Witness, 4:214–15 (1847); Foner, Life and Writings, 1:233–34.

Date

April 3, 1847

Type

Publication Status

Published