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Frederick Douglass to William Lloyd Garrison, July 18, 1847



Lynn, [Mass.] 18 July 1847.


I have observed in the Liberator, of the two past weeks, with considerable surprise and much regret, that the conclusion to which I have come, with respect to publishing, at present, an anti-slavery newspaper, has very unwisely and unnecessarily been made the occasion of attack upon yourself, and of most unkind, uncharitable and unjust imputations on the motives of


leading friends of the cause in Boston.1In June and July 1847, several readers of the Liberator wrote letters expressing disappointment that Douglass had abandoned the idea of starting his own antislavery newspaper. “Libertas” addressed Garrison’s concern that editing a newspaper would limit Douglass’s ability to lecture against slavery by reminding him that Garrison himself devoted much time to lecturing without a harmful effect on his functioning as an editor. An article reprinted from the Boston Chronotype lauded Douglass’s potential as a black editor and noted, “We are surprised at the narrowness of mind that counseled him otherwise.” Isaac Stearns speculated that “selfish considerations are at the bottom of this opposition to his establishing a paper.” He suggested that Garrison feared direct competition from a newspaper venture edited by Douglass. Lib., 9, 16 July 1847. The parties engaged in this work of mischief imagine me hemmed in on every side—overpowered—and my will completely subjected to the Boston Board2A group of Boston-area reformers nicknamed the Boston Board or the Boston “clique” included a number of powerful individuals who dominated the executive board of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. After 1843 they controlled the American Anti-Slavery Society, whose executive board relocated to Massachusetts from New York City. The Boston Board directed the pace and path of Garrisonian abolitionism throughout the North by dominating the national society and by influencing regional organizations and organs such as the Pennsylvania Freeman and the Ohio-based Anti-Slavery Bugle. Members included Garrison; Ellis Gray Loring, an attorney; Francis Jackson, a merchant; Samuel May, Jr., a minister; Wendell Phillips and Edmund Quincy, both full-time reformers; James Russell Lowell, a poet; and many members of the prominent Weston family, including Maria Weston Chapman. Friedman, Gregarious Saints, 43–62; Pease and Pease, Bound with Them in Chains, 39–40.—and direct their efforts for my deliverance from thraldom, without stopping to inquire as to the correctness of their conjectures. This is absolutely grievous; and I feel it due to yourself and friends, and all concerned, to say at once, distinctly and publicly, that, in this matter, I have acted independently, and wholly on my own responsibility.

Yours, sincerely,


PLSr: Lib., 23 July 1847. Reprinted in JNH, 10:734–35 (October 1925); Woodson, Mind of the Negro, 470–71; Foner, Life and Writings, 1:256.


July 18, 1847


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