Jermain Wesley Loguen to Frederick Douglass, February 8, 1848
JERMAIN WESLEY LOGUEN1Jermain Wesley Loguen (1813–72), a black abolitionist and minister, was born into slavery in Davidson County, Tennessee. Originally named Jarm Logue, he was the son of an enslaved woman and her white owner, David Logue. In 1835, after his father sold his mother and sister, Loguen chose to escape. He first ﬂed to Upper Canada, but relocated to Rochester in 1837. He opened schools for black children in Utica and Syracuse before his ordination as a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in 1842. Loguen originally supported the antislavery principles of William Lloyd Garrison, believing in nonpolitical action and nonviolence, but in the 1840s he began to endorse political means in the struggle against slavery. By 1844 Loguen had become a regular lecturer on the antislavery circuit, working closely with the western New York abolitionist circle that included Douglass, Samuel J. May, and Gerrit Smith. His house in Syracuse was an important stop for slaves bound for Canada on the Underground Railroad, and he devoted much time to the Syracuse Fugitive Aid Society. Fear of prosecution for his role in the rescue of the fugitive William “Jerry” McHenry led him to ﬂee temporarily to Canada West, but he returned to Syracuse early in 1852 to resume his work on behalf of fugitives. He later recruited black troops for the Union army during the Civil War, and established African Methodist Episcopal Zionist congregations in the South during Reconstruction. J[ermain] W[esley] Loguen, The Rev. J. W. Loguen as a Slave and as a Freeman: A Narrative of Real Life (Syracuse, N.Y., 1859), 425–33; Quarles, Black Abolitionists, 67; ANB, 13:848–49. TO FREDERICK DOUGLASS
Syracuse, [N.Y.] 8 Feb[ruary] 1848.
MR. FREDERICK DOUGLASS—
DEAR SIR: —
I have for some time been taking as many papers as my slender means would admit; but I have been favored by our friend and brother, Samuel J. May, with the perusal of your excellent sheet, and come what may,—poverty, the want of a full meal, or a well-covered back, or even the discontinuance of other periodicals that I highly value,—I am determined to take the North Star. I regard it as the star of promise to the millions of our downtrodden brethren in this miscalled land of liberty, and can no longer hesitate to do what I may, at any personal sacrifice, to keep it high above the horizon. Never should it be allowed to set, until the darkness of slavery passes away from the land, and the sunlight of universal and impartial freedom absorbs its rays.
I am myself a fugitive from the land of whips and chains; and might never have made my escape had there been no North Star. For nearly a month, I desired no other light than that which came by its rays. The light of day was darkness to me. I was obliged to skulk and hide myself from the sun. But when the North Star shone upon my path, my spirit revived, and I dared to press on towards a land of freedom. I left behind me an aged mother, sisters and brothers, who are still, I presume, wearing the yoke of bondage, dragging out years of living death. And what can I do to relieve them? Nothing directly. Indeed, the fact that I have escaped, has probably increased the vigilance of their keepers. The thought of this, at times, embitters the joy of my deliverance. My only hope for them is in the “God of Battles, who is on the side of the oppressed,”2In his introduction to Douglass’s Narrative, William Lloyd Garrison writes of a “God who is ever on the side of the oppressed.” In quoting Garrison, Loguen substitutes the epithet “God of Battles,” made popular by Shakespeare in Henry V’s prayer before fighting the French at the Battle of Agincourt. Douglass Papers, ser. 2, 1:6; Henry V, act 4, sc. 1, line 288. and in the further diffusion of the sentiment and the love of liberty. As a powerful instrument to the
production of this effect upon the public mind and heart, I welcome your labors as an editor, and long to do all I can “to strengthen your hands and encourage your heart.”3A reference to Isa. 35:3–4. I love your paper because “it forgets not Joseph,”4When two servants fall from the Pharaoh’s favor and are jailed, they have prophetic dreams. Joseph, who is also in prison, interprets each dream, and as a result one of the servants is released, but the servant, once restored to the Pharaoh’s favor, forgets Joseph. Gen. 40:1–23; Freedman, Anchor Bible Dictionary, 3:977–78. but pleads for his deliverance, speaking boldly, pointedly, in his behalf—daring even to say to the mightiest slaveholder, “thou art the man.”52 Sam. 12:7. May God make you a skilful and mighty potter, to remould all the clay6A reference to Rom. 9:21. in our land.
I shall be happy to do what I may to procure other subscribers to the North Star, if it will not interfere with the arrangement of your agencies.
Enclosed I send you my subscription for one year; and add my repeated assurances of respect and affection.
Yours for the poor and crushed slave,
J. W. L.
PLIr: NS, 18 February 1848.