Skip to main content

Maria Weston Chapman to Frederick Douglass, 22 September 1848

1

MARIA WESTON CHAPMAN TO FREDERICK DOUGLASS

Paris, [Fr.] 22 Sept[ember] 1848.

MY DEAR FRIEND,—
I trust you will ere this have received the equivalent in dollars and cents of £10, which I received from Lady Byron,1Anne Isabella Milbanke, Lady Noel Byron (1792-1860), a reformer and philanthropist, was briefly married in 1815 to the poet Lord Byron. A daughter of Sir Ralph and Lady Milbanke of Elmore Hall, Lady Byron had the financial means to support a number of causes, including American abolitionism. She first became concerned with the antislavery cause in the United States after attending the World's Anti-Slavery Convention held in London in 1840. There she met and exchanged ideas with prominent Americans in the movement, including William Lloyd Garrison and Charles Lenox Remond. Lady Byron also supported several educational institutions and cooperative ventures, such as an industrial and agricultural school and female reformatories. Jennifer S. Uglow, ed., International Dictionary of Women's Biography (New York, 1982), 89. with the request to use it "for his (your) benefit at my (your) own discretion." I hastened to place it in your hands immediately: not that my opinion is changed with regard to the publication of the "North Star."2Chapman, as well as many other Garrisonian abolitionists, opposed Douglass in starting his own antislavery newspaper. They argued that numerous black newspapers already existed and that Douglass' s paper would duplicate those efforts and fail financially as a result. Just as likely, they feared that a paper published by Douglass would hurt those published by white abolitionist editors, such as Garrison. Moreover, the Garrisonians believed that Douglass was betraying those who had helped him establish his public career. Chapman, in particular, resented any divisions within the abolitionist movement, believing that they hurt the antislavery cause as a whole. All suggested that Douglass did not have the ability to edit a newspaper and urged him to continue lecturing. Mayer, All on Fire, 371-75; McKivigan, "Frederick Douglass-Gerrit Smith Friendship," 207-08. I regretted, and still regret in common with all your Boston friends, that one whom we so highly value, and from whom we hope so much, should be subjected to the harassing anxieties and heavy financial responsibilities of a perplexing business operation, the value of which we know only too well how to appreciate.

But I cannot feel willing to exercise any other discretion in the transmission of this sum, than to beg you to receive it freely, in token of my unwillingness to interfere in any other way with your own best judgment, in the management of your own affairs, than a friendly heart ever feels authorized to do by suggestion and advice. These I offered long since, and

Page 2

will not now repeat. I will only renew my best wishes to yourself and family, with warm congratulations on the more satisfactory position into which the circumstances of the cause are gradually coming by the annihiliation of Liberty Party, and the formation of the great Northern and Southern political bodies. Let us all united with renewed energy in the promulgation of the principles of uncompromising right, which have caused this satisfactory result; for only while the abolitionists persevere, can any such half way political movement proceed.3The Free Soil party, a coalition of political abolitionists, Whigs, and Democrats, formed in response to the controversy over admitting slavery to the territories acquired in the war with Mexico. The party also called for federal funding of internal improvements, which attracted former Whigs; endorsed tariffs for revenue only and the election of civil officials, which appealed to Democrats; and opposed the extension of slavery and the slave trade in Washington, D.C., which satisfied former Liberty party members. In August 1848 the party held its first convention, adopted the slogan "Free soil, free speech, free labor, free men," and nominated former president Martin Van Buren as its presidential candidate. Frederick J. Blue, The Free Soilers: Third Party Politics, 1848-1854 (Urbana, Ill., 1973), 70-71, 74-75; Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, 124-25; Sewell, Ballots for Freedom, 153-58.
Faithfully and truly your friend
M. W. CHAPMAN.

Date

September 22, 1848

Type

Publication Status

Published