L. P. to Frederick Douglass, March 22, 1848
L. P.1Like many nineteenth-century correspondents who signed only their initials, “L. P.” remains unidentified. TO FREDERICK DOUGLASS
New York, [N.Y.] 22 March 1848.
I observe in your last paper an article commenting somewhat severely on the Hutchinson Family for singing before Henry Clay at his recent visit to this city.2Douglass reprinted an article from “a New York paper” detailing a performance of the Hutchinsons before Henry Clay and other prominent men at Castle Garden in New York City on 7 March 1848. Following the article, Douglass criticized the Hutchinsons for “singing the honor and praise of a slaveholder.” NS, 17 March 1848. You wrote the article from information received by reading our city papers, and of course was not in possession of the facts in the case.
The Hutchinsons not only sang the impromptu song of Jesse’s, but sang
several others, among which were the “Good time coming,” and “The Old Granite State,”3“The Old Granite State,” a song written by Jesse Hutchinson and performed by the Hutchinson family singers, combined the family’s reform activism with pride in their home state of New Hampshire. Hutchinson, Story of the Hutchinsons, 297–301. both of which songs were filled with Anti-Slavery sentiments, several new verses having been added to them.
The Anti-Slavery sentiments were sung with great boldness and heartfelt expression; and truly this little band were noble champions of the noble cause which they advocated.
Several Anti-Slavery friends were present, and we all felt as though a great work had been done for the slave, for “Harry of the West”4Henry Clay’s nickname from youth was “Harry.” When he left his Richmond law practice to advocate for westerners in Kentucky in 1797, he became known as “Harry of the West.” Bernard Mayo, Henry Clay: Spokesman of the New West (Boston, 1937), 13, 22, 44. had never before listened to anti-slavery truth in such a soul-stirring form. The effect on the old man was good; his heart was touched, and tears trickled down over his aged face as he listened to the melting strains of these minstrels of freedom. Would to God that the Hutchinson Family might sing before every slaveholder in the land; the effect would be to greatly hasten on the “good time coming,” when every slave should be emancipated, and mankind should love each other.
The effect of your article is injurious to the reputation of the Hutchinson Family, whose only motive in singing to Henry Clay was to do good to mankind, by spreading the great truths of freedom and brotherly love.
Henry Clay is a man of great inﬂuence, and here was an opportunity to try and obtain that inﬂuence on the side of freedom, and time only will disclose the effect of their visit. I pray God that the truths which were so eloquently advocated in song by our friends, the Hutchinsons, may sink deep into the heart of the aged statesman, and that he will in due time bring forth fruit meet for repentance.
Thus you see the motive which induced our friends to sing was a good one. Our city papers, in giving an account of the proceedings, refrained from mentioning the Anti-Slavery and Temperance sentiments that were sung, and so a false and erroneous impression has gone abroad.
The Hutchinsons are still the same fearless and able advocates of freedom as ever, and nightly at their concerts sing Anti-Slavery, in its broadest terms.
PLIr: NS, 31 March 1848.