Skip to main content

George Bradburn to Frederick Douglass, June 26, 1848



Steamer Baltic. 26 June 1848.


Please send your paper for one year to ———, [B]iloxi, Miss.1Bradburn was requesting a subscription for W. G. Kendall (c. 1811–?), a successful brickmaker originally from Kentucky but living in Biloxi, Mississippi. 1848 Mail Book of the North Star, 183, FD Papers Project, InIU; 1850 US. Census, Mississippi, Harrison County, 104. I enclose two dollars in payment of the same.

But “thereby hangs a tale,”2As You Like It, act 2, sc. 7, line 28. which will interest you, even more than the two dollars, I doubt not; and I’ll draw it out for you.—You were not, I think, introduced to Mr. Willard Bumham,3Willard Burnham was a dry-goods merchant in Cleveland, Ohio, possibly in the store of his neighbor, Charles Bradburn, the brother of George Bradburn. Peet, Business Directory of Cleveland for 1846–7, 57. who is my brother’s nearest neighbor,4George Bradburn’s brother, Charles, ran two wholesale grocery stores in Cleveland, Ohio. Peet, Directory of the C ity of Cleveland for 1846–7, 57. in Cleveland, as well as a particular friend of mine. Mr. B. went


to Columbus the other day, to attend the convention of all sorts of people,5Delegates attending the “People’s Convention,” held at Columbus, Ohio, on 20 and 21 June 1848, rejected both major parties’ presidential candidates. The assembly adopted a staunch free-soil position that rendered Democratic nominee Lewis Cass unsuitable because his “recent and ardent friendship for the Wilmot Proviso has suddenly been converted into decided hostility by Presidential aspirations.” Whig nominee Zachary Taylor, a southern slaveholder, was distasteful because of his failure to speak out in favor of restricting slavery. Although Taylor had yet to make a statement on the extension of slavery, the convention believed he “must be presumed to be favorable to its extension.” Instead, the group called for free-soil advocates to meet in Buffalo, New York, on 9 August 1848 to nominate candidates for president and vice president. ASB, 2 June 1848; (Columbus) Daily Ohio State Journal, 23 June 1848. to protest against the nominations of Taylor6Prominent Whigs Thurlow Weed, John J. Crittenden, and Alexander H. Stephens promoted Zachary Taylor (1784–1850), a general in the Mexican-American War, as their party’s presidential nominee in the 1848 election. As both a military hero and a slave owner, Taylor appealed to southern states, which supported him in his nomination and election to the presidency. Brainerd Dyer, Zachary Taylor (1946; New York, 1967); DAB, 18:349–54; NCAB, 4:367–70. and Cass.7Lewis Cass (1782–1866), Democratic politician and 1848 presidential candidate, served in the Ohio legislature, held a series of federal administrative appointments, and commanded troops from Ohio as a brigadier general during the War of 1812. Cass served as governor of the Michigan Territory from 1813 to 1831, an appointment for his distinguished service during the war. Additional federal appointments by Andrew Jackson included secretary of war in 1831 and minister to France in 1836. The Michigan legislature elected Cass, upon his return to this country, to the U.S. Senate in 1845. Considered a party regular, he advocated a strong nationalism, supported Jacksonian policies in the West, and believed in limiting the use of federal power in domestic matters. Cass opposed prohibiting the spread of slavery through the Wilmot Proviso and instead supported popular sovereignty as a solution to sectional tensions. At the Democratic National Convention, held in Baltimore in 1848, Cass received his party’s presidential nomination on the fourth ballot. Campaigning on a conservative platform of limited government, acceptance of slavery and its possible expansion, and resistance to centralization, he lost to Whig challenger Zachary Taylor. Andrew C. McLaughlin, Lewis Cass (Boston, 1891); Frank B. Woodford, Lewis Cass: The Last Jeffersonian (New Brunswick, N.J., 1950); Holman Hamilton, Prologue to Conflict: The Crisis and Compromise of 1850 (Lexington, Ky., 1964), 28–29, 191; ACAB, 1:551–53; DAB, 3:562–64; ANB, 4:546–47; NCAB, 5:3–5. On his way thither, he travelled in company with several who were returning from the Philadelphia Convention.8The Whig National Convention met in Philadelphia on 7–9 June 1848 to select candidates for the upcoming presidential election. Thousands of Whigs turned out for the convention, which proved to be highly controversial. Among the contenders for the nomination were party regulars Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Winfield Scott, and Mexican-American War hero Zachary Taylor. After four ballots, on the third day of the meeting, Taylor garnered the nomination with 171 votes to Clay’s 32. Of the votes for Taylor, 102 came from the 108 delegates from slaveholding states. Millard Fillmore of New York received the party’s vice-presidential nomination after only two ballots. Washington (D.C.) National Era, 15 June 1848; Lib., 16 June 1848; Michael F. Holt, Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (New York, 1999), 320–30; DAB, 18:349–54. Among these were some three o[r] four slaveholders. Mr. Burnham, conversing with one of the latter, took occasion to say, among other things, that if the slaves were liberated, he did not doubt they would soon become intelligent, intellectual and respectable, like other men. “That’s impossible; they are an inferior race; you never can make any of them intellectual,” said the slaveholder. “But,” rejoined Mr. B., “we have one among us at the North, who, escaping from your slavery some seven or eight years ago, without scarce knowing the alphabet, is now one of the best speakers we have; has been to England, Scotland and Ireland, where he was most favorably received by all classes of society, and where his eloquence excited general admiration; and he now edits a paper. You’d better take it.”—“I will,” quickly responded the slaveholder; and he handed to Mr. B. the enclosed two dollars, which, at the latter’s request, I have the pleasure of transmitting to you. The individual is a lawyer, and practises his profession at New Orleans, but has a plantation at the place to which I have requested you to send your paper. I fancy you had better not publish his name, for reasons which will be obvious to you; though Mr. B. did not, I think, mention that he enjoined any secrecy in this respect.

If you have any difficulty in deciphering this note, refer it—if that will be any satisfaction to you—to my being obliged to write on board the steamboat, which shakes so, that I have hardly been able to spell right!

Yours, truly,


PLSr: NS, 7 July 1848.



June 26, 1848


Publication Status