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Frederick Douglass to Jonathan D. Carr, November 1, 1847

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FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO JONATHAN D. CARR1Born in Kendal, England, Jonathan Dodgson Carr (1806–84) was the son of a Quaker grocer. In 1831 Carr moved to Carlisle to apply his skills as a baker. He established Carr’s of Carlisle, a manufacturer of water biscuits, building his first factory in 1836. Within fifteen years Carr’s of Carlisle had become one of the largest baking enterprises in Great Britain. Carr recognized the benefit of using high-quality Canadian wheat, which he imported, and he invented the original automated biscuit dough cutter. In addition to his reputation for producing high-quality goods, Carr was active in social reform, supporting the antislavery movement and the effort to repeal the Corn Laws. Not only was his company renowned for its technical innovation; it was also progressive in the treatment of its workforce concerning wages, hours, and working conditions. Forster, Rich Desserts, 10, 17–21, 26–30, 53–54, 57–59, 64–69, 78–80.

Lynn, [Mass.] 1 Nov[ember] 1847.

To J. D. Carr.

MY DEAR FRIEND, —

Your kind letter of lst October,2Carr’s letter of 1 October 1847 has not been located. inclosing a bill on London, value £445 17s. 6d.,3The British Friend identified Carr as the treasurer of the “Douglass Testimonial” fund gathered by Douglass’s British supporters. the amount collected by my friends in Great Britain as a testimonial of their esteem,4Despite opposition from Garrisonians, British abolitionists such as Isabel Jennings of Cork, Ireland, Anna Richardson of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, and Julia and Eliza Griffiths of London and Kent raised a sum equivalent to over $2,000 to help Douglass begin publication of the North Star. Lib., 24 September 1847; Temperley, British Antislavery, 219; John R. McKivigan, “The Frederick Douglass–Gerrit Smith Friendship and Political Abolitionism in the 1850s,” in Frederick Douglass: New Literary and Historical Essays, ed. Eric J. Sundquist (New York, 1990), 207. came safely and promptly to hand.

It has frequently been my lot, during my short, though varied and singular life, to respond in language of gratitude to kind friends, through whose great generosity I have been made the recipient of distinguished and valuable favours; but, in all truthfulness, never in circumstances when I

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could do so more sincerely and cordially than in the present instance. I accept your noble and valuable gift with emotions of gratitude, which I have no language to describe. Please accept my thanks for it, and extend the same to the generous friends of whom it was collected.

The bill sold here for two thousand, one hundred, and seventy-five dollars; a much larger sum than I expected.

I have now to inform you that this sum is, after all, to be, and a part of it is already, appropriated to the very purpose originally intended, both by myself and the donors—the establishment of a press to advocate the cause of the American slave, and to elevate and improve the condition of the nominally-free coloured people in the United States. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I had not decided against the publication of a paper one month, before I became satisfied that I had made a mistake, and each subsequent month’s experience has confirmed me in the conviction. . . . . . . . . . . .

The National Watchman, published at Troy, by William Allen,5Son of a free black mother and a white immigrant father, William G. Allen (1820–?) grew up in southeastern Virginia. After graduating from the Oneida Institute in New York, Allen taught school in Canada and New York. Allen was a popular lecturer and was regarded as an expert on black history and literature. In 1844, while teaching in Troy, New York, he assisted Henry Highland Garnet in editing the National Watchman, a temperance and abolitionist newspaper aimed at black readers. Shortly after having its title changed to the Clarion, the short-lived paper failed in 1847. No issues are known to have survived. In 1850 Allen became a professor of rhetoric and belles-lettres at New York Central College in McGrawville, New York, where he caused a public furor by marrying one of his white female students in 1852. The following year the Allens sailed to Great Britain, where William lectured for the abolitionist cause, and both he and his wife operated a series of small schools. Hutton, Early Black Press in America, 9; R. J. M. Blackett, “William G. Allen: The Forgotten Professor,” CWH, 26:39–52 (March 1980); Ripley, Black Abolitionist Papers, 4:135–36n; ANB, 1:346–47. a coloured young man, has been given up. The Ram’s Horn, published at New York, will probably be united with my paper. The Mystery,6Martin R. Delany edited the Mystery, an abolitionist newspaper based in Pittsburgh. The Mystery reported on northern free black life as well as the antislavery cause. Never winning many subscribers, Delany published the Mystery only sporadically until abandoning it in early 1847, a few months before joining Douglass as coeditor of the North Star. Hutton, Early Black Press, 16–17, 45, 97. published at Pittsburgh, is not issued regularly for want of means.

I have already bought an excellent and elegant press,7Douglass purchased a printing press for the North Star in late November 1847. John Dick, an Englishman whom Douglass hired as his printer, deemed this press insufficient for their task. After the first issue, the North Star was printed in the office of William Clough, which was located above the office of the North Star in the Talman building at 25 Buffalo Street in Rochester. Daily American Directory for the City of Rochester [for 1851–52] (Rochester, 1851), 96. and nearly all the necessary printing materials. They cost, in all, between nine and ten hundred dollars. My press has been examined by practical printers, and all unite in declaring it one of the best they have ever seen. My printing materials, types, &c., though not so good as what might be secured in England, are nevertheless good, and the best that can be obtained in this country. The regular publication of the paper will begin with the commencement of the year.8The North Star began publication on 3 December 1847.

As to its permanence and usefulness, I can only promise to labour for both to the very best of my ability. I am solemnly impressed with the importance of the enterprise; and I shall enter on my duties with a full sense of my accountability to my God, to the slave, and to the dear friends who have aided me in the undertaking. In the publication of the paper, I shall be under no party or society, but shall advocate the slave’s cause in that way which, in my judgment, will be the best suited to the advancement of the cause. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Yours, gratefully and sincerely,

FREDERICK DOUGLASS.

PLeSr: British Friend, 5:312 (December 1847). Reprinted in NASS, 27 January 1848; Foner, Life and Writings, 1:278–79.

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Date

November 1, 1847

Type

Publication Status

Published