Advice to My Canadian Brothers and Sisters: An Address Delivered in Chatham, Canada West, on 3 August 1854
ADVICE TO MY CANADIAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS: AN ADDRESS DELIVERED IN CHATHAM, CANADA WEST,
ON 3 AUGUST 1854
Chatham Western Planet, 9 August 1854. Other texts in Frederick Douglass' Paper, 18 August 1854; Foner, Life and Writings, 5 : 330-40.
On 31 July 1854, Douglass set out from Rochester on an arduous three hundred-mile train and wagon trip to visit black settlements near Chatham
Canada West, and to lecture in that vicinity. At the Dawn settlement, Douglass joined with Josiah Henson, John Scoble, and others to celebrate the twelfth anniversary of British Emancipation. On 3 August Douglass inspected the prosperous Elgin settlement, an association of ex-slaves guided by Scottish Presbyterian clergyman William King. Returning to Chatham that same evening, Douglass addressed a large audience in the Court House. FDP, 11, 25 August 1854.
This gentleman addressed a very numerous and respectable assemblage of our citizens in the Court House, on the evening of Thursday last, and rarely, indeed, has it been our good fortune to listen to an address so replete with sound sense, forcible illustration, and fervid eloquence. From Mr. Douglass’ fame, both as a speaker and writer, we were led to expect much; yet we must confess, the reality even exceeded our anticipation. We do not call him a first-rate orator—that is, as far as gracefulness of manner, and a studied elegance and ready flow of language are concerned—but he has that instead, which far exceeds those ornate arts of oratory—a persuasive earnestness and sincerity, a power of thought and feeling, which cannot fail to arrest the attention, and seize upon the judgment. You are convinced, while you listen, that the man feels what he says—that the thoughts and sentiments he utters are in reality his own; and while he is pleading the wrongs of his injured brethren—the evils, the horrors, and the cruelties of slavery—you are spell-bound, not with the assumed pathetic appeals of the paid advocate, but with the heart-felt sentiments of one who has himself experienced what he so touchingly illustrates.
We regret not being able to give Mr. Douglass’ address in the words in which it was delivered. This is impossible, and therefore, we have endeavored to convey, as accurately as possible, merely the ideas of the speaker.
When we entered the room, he was saying that slavery destroys the power of the human mind, and deadens every feeling of the human heart. To illustrate this he need not appeal to the merciless slave-dealer, whose interests are bound up in the demoralizing traffic, in which he is engaged; but he would appeal to the candid judgment of those, whom interest has not biased, nor whose hearts are not callous to the groans and agonies of their enslaved fellow beings. He would go beyond the boundaries of slavery, where a Christian Ministry is appointed, where Christianity is preached and practiced, where its humanizing influence is exerted over the evil passions and propensities of the corrupt heart, and where slavery has not extinguished its kindling emotions, and here, the truth of his assertion would be
fully acknowledged, and ample testimony borne to the depth of moral degradation, into which slavery plunges its unfortunate subjects.
He might be asked, what right had he to come here to speak on the subject of slavery—to unfold its horrors, its sad tales of suffering and of woe; but he boldly proclaimed his fullest right to speak in Canada, England, Ireland, Spain, France, Germany, any and everywhere he could get men to hear him, on a subject fraught with such mighty interests to so many millions of his own race. The slave ought to break loose from his chains, burst the bonds of a base and ignominious servitude, go abroad and tell of the cruelty he has witnessed, the ignorance from which he has escaped, to excite the sympathies of the world in behalf of those he has left behind.
The slave-holders represent their slaves to be happy, comfortable, and well off—supplied with all the necessaries and many of the comforts of life. For this they have written and spoken. They will tell you they are better off than either the poor of England or Ireland; but this he denied. It is impossible, in the very nature of the institution, that the condition of the slave can be any other than the most miserable and deplorable. The poor slave is seldom permitted to go abroad. He is denied the privilege of altering his condition, or earning a living by honest industry. Ask the slave how he is treated, and he is as silent as the grave. No answer escapes those lips, that are sealed with the lash of a brutal master. Ask those three and a half millions of slaves, that people the Southern States, to meet on the banks of the Mississippi, and to pass resolutions, that the world may know whether they are free or not, and you receive no answer. They dare not speak. The Irishman no matter what his condition—hungry, and in rags, a wandering outcast—still breathes the air of liberty, and possesses the right of speech. In all that beautiful land, from the lofty hill of Howth,1A rocky peninsula, north of Dublin Bay, at the end of which is found the seaport of Howth. to the Giant’s Causeway;2For about a half mile the cliffs of the northern coast of county Antrim are divided into grey-black basalt columns, some of them hundreds of feet tall. Legend has it that Irish giant Finn MacCoul used them as stepping stones by which to meet an enemy in Scotland. Who's Who, What's What and Where in Ireland (London, 1973), 512-13; Eugene Fodor and Robert C. Fisher, eds., Fodor's Ireland 1976 (New York, 1976), 464. on the broad Laffy3Actually the Liffey River. and on the green banks of the Shannon;4Longest river in the British Isles, the Shannon River rises in county Cavan in Ireland, flows south to Limerick, and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. in its fertile valleys and deep retired glens, can Irishmen assemble and utter their grievances and miseries, while an active press takes them up to disseminate abroad, and a sympathizing humanity eloquently pleads in
their behalf. But no such privilege belongs to the poor and oppressed sons of Africa. They toil and labor beneath a burning clime, with backs furrowed by the relentless driver’s lash, and yet there is none to whom they dare whisper their sufferings and their wrongs.
Was there not, therefore, an excuse for him to bring this momentous question of slavery before them tonight—a question, on which there is still much ignorance prevailing, and of which there is yet a great deal to be learned.
No term is more abused, or mis-applied, than that of Slavery. It is frequently connected with drunkenness, hard-working, legal disabilities, and many other things. Men are said to be slaves of their propensities. passions, or ofcircumstances; but none ofthose are applicable to slavery in the strict sense in which he would wish to bring it before them. It is one man claiming and exercising an uncontrolled right over the body and soul of another—losing his manhood and being converted into a merchantable commodity—men stamped with the image of the living God, endowed with rationality, whose souls are immortal, with minds capable of grasping at great and mighty things—whose names may be inscribed in the book of life—it is such beings degraded on a level with sheep, and with swine, that constitute alone the idea of slavery. In the language of South Carolinie, “a slave can own nothing, learn nothing, but all that are his belong to his master—no mind, no will, his individuality lost, and personality destroyed, humanity gone, and ranked with the beasts of the field!”5The reporter may have mistaken Douglass's characterization of portions of South Carolina's slave code for a quotation from the code itself. Cf. Stroud, Laws Relating to Slavery, lst ed., 20-22; Goodell, American Slave Code, 89, 97. Such does slavery accomplish.
From this condition spring up innumerable evils. There is no impulse so strong as that of liberty; because it is the normal condition of man; hence to hold a man in bondage, cruelty must necessarily be resorted to, and this is one of the saddest evils of slavery. In all slaveholding States, the institution is represented as Divine; and on that ground, its justice and right are founded. But, would it not be more reasonable to establish its humanity, before undertaking to prove its Divinity? The Lights of the church have endeavored to establish the position that God sanctions slavery. If true, then God sanctions the conditions of slavery. To what conclusions must such an absurd argument lead, and who is there that will follow out these conclusions? God never establishes a relation, but He also sanctions its condition; thus the relations existing between husband and wife—between
parent and child—between the pastor and his flock—are all beautiful in themselves, and sanctioned by Jehovah; but what are the conditions of slavery? Cruelty is one—does God sanction that?—Without this, men will not voluntarily resign their liberty into the hands of another. A slave is made to feel that he must either continue such or die. For, were it otherwise, he would immediately assert his freedom, and cease to be a slave. Hence, where there is slavery, there must be the whip, the cat o’ nine tails, the thumb—screw, the gag, with all the paraphernalia necessary to its very existence, and which, of course, must necessarily be sanctioned by God!
Slaveholders want slaves to do their work. They know there is gold in the earth, but it must be dug. They cannot do it. To beg, they are ashamed. They must have the comforts of life—be arrayed in purple and ﬁne linen—travel to Saratoga and the Falls6Saratoga Springs, New York, and Niagara Falls.—to France and London—their ﬁngers covered with costly rings—breasts ornamented with sparkling diamonds, and yet they are indisposed to work to acquire these luxuries and ornaments. They have hands, but they are not made for earning an honest living, which is merely an antiquated Northern notion, British or Canadian in its origin, but scowled at in the Southern States. Slavery breaks the mainspring of honest industry; it holds out no hope of reward, for which free men toil and labor; instead of which it uses the lash, in order to obtain work, and therefore, if God sanctions the existence of slavery, He must also sanction the infliction of punishment and cruelties, by which alone it can be maintained.
But it may be asked, do all slaveholders use the whip; are there not many humane and kind to their slaves, attend to their comforts and wants, and never have recourse to such severe punishment or unnecessary cruelty? Yes. Then what becomes of your argument, for Slavery is only a sin in the abuse, not in the use? By no means; for the great evil of slavery consists in a man’s liability to be sold. His master claims the right to do so, and this ever hangs like a nightmare over the poor slave. He may tell him he had never used him badly, always clothed and fed him well, but if he is disobedient or lazy, he will sell him to another, from whom he will receive different treatment, and here the very terror which such threats inspire in the mind is employed to ensure subjection and acquiescence from the slave. Take away the bloody lash and thumb-screw; let the dagger and bowie-knife be absent, and soon would the slave burst the bonds that encircle him, and walk forth to breathe the pure atmosphere of freedom. No sentiment of justice attaches
him to his master; no acts of kindness inspire in him a feeling of affection to him. We can see no Divine right which gives him over, body and soul to another. He knows his hands and feet are his own, and in using them to assert his freedom, he uses what belongs to himself and to nobody else.
Ignorance is another evil of, and indispensable to slavery. Knowledge enlightens and expands the mind, elevates the thoughts, and makes the slave dissatisfied with his condition, and to pant after liberty. Hence, in all the slaveholding States, the most stringent laws are enacted, the violation of which entails the severest punishment, to forbid the slave either to read or to write, aye, to forbid him even to learn the nature and existence of that God, who breathed into him the breath of life. Hear it, ye Christians—for it is better that the revolting fact be proclaimed in every Christian land—that it is safer for the missionary to transport the Bible into the very heart of Africa, than to carry it to the benighted slaves of Christian America.
He does not wish to arouse in the minds of Canadians any feeling of exasperation towards the people of the United States; but he believes the moral influence of Canada ought to be brought to bear against a system, which destroys every principle of humanity, saps the foundation of religion and morality and prostrates the individual into the lowest depths of degradation.
The less character a nation has, the more sensitive do we find it. America is vain, arrogant and jealous, always inquiring of the world, what do you think of me? Behold us extending our territory far and wide; soon will we lay our hands on Cuba, then Mexico, by and by Brazil; and in a little time Canada will be added to our glorious Republic! We would like to know how the people of Canada would like the embrace.
America stands prominently forth as a land of inconsistencies and contradictions—aspiring to be honest, and yet a nation of liars; for in her Declaration of Independence, and on the gate way of her Constitution, she proclaims “all men equal, ” while she holds in bondage three millions and a half of her subjects—robbed of every right, deprived of every privilege. and sold and bought like the beasts that perish. Her hills are studded with poles, crowned with the cap of liberty. Her coins bear the impress of the same deity. The stranger, on landing, is congratulated for having set his foot on free soil, while the vain-glorious boast of “free country,” “glorious country,” everywhere meets his ear; and yet a land more steeped in slavery and all its concomitant evils nowhere exists on the face of the earth. The political feeling of the country has ever been enlisted on the side of
slavery. In every successive Government it has been the controlling power. When England was sympathizing with the Hungarian Patriot, he lands on the shores of America, and there he finds the national sympathies directed towards Russia, rather than to the cause of liberty.7Louis Kossuth’s appeal for American military aid against Russia was unsuccessful. In 1852 both Whig and Democratic party platforms endorsed nonintervention. Similar appeals to British prime minister Lord Palmerston also went unanswered. Spencer, Kossuth and Young America, 160; E. O. S., Hungary and Its Revolutions (London, 1854), 448-49. And it cannot be otherwise; for how can America take side with oppressed freedom, so long as the chains of slavery bind the feet of so many millions of her subjects? It is a lasting disgrace on that boasted land of liberty, to stand aloof from the struggle in which England and France are patriotically engaged, to crush the Despot of Russia,8Czar Nicholas I. who aims to destroy the last vestige of European liberty. Why is it so? Because infidel France is more consistent than Protestant America. The one has snapped the fetters of slavery in all her dominions, while the other refuses to listen to the voice of humanity, which loudly pleads for the emancipation of her own sable subjects, whereby her sympathies could be consistently enlisted, in behalf of the threatened oppression of others. There is not a spot in all the vast territory of the United States, sacred to the cause of freedom. The Israelites had their cities of refuge, where the poor and oppressed could ﬂy and while standing within their precincts, could bid defiance to the cruelties of the oppressor. But in America, there is no hill so high, no valley so deep, no glen so sequestered, as to afford a safe retreat for the poor unfortunate man of his color. He may be started at Detroit and chased over the lake to Buffalo, from thence to the Hudson, to Canada, even to the foot of Bunker Hill Monument, and there, under the shadow of that Monument, and while imploring mercy, in the name ofthat blood, which was first shed by a black soldier, in the cause of American Independence—he may be chained and handcuffed, and dragged back to the presence of his brutal owner. But beneath the pale light of the North Star, where the Lion reposes with his foot on the Virgin’s lap—fit emblem of England ’s Queen9Queen Victoria (1819-1901)—and nestling in his mane, can the sable sons of Africa find a refuge, free from the bloody beak of the American Eagle.
But he is aware that he is now treading on dangerous ground. He may be told, we don’t want all the colored people in Canada. Neither does he. He wants some to remain behind. It will not be detrimental to the interests
of this country, to have a large infusion of colored people in her borders. Let only justice and kindness be meted out to them and soon will they become the most loyal, sober and industrious of her population.
There never has been a fair opportunity afforded to the black man, to Show what he would become, under the influence of good treatment, and the proper direction of his mind. What has been accomplished in the United States by coercion, can be effected here by the hope of reward. The prejudice against a colored man is principally owing to too much being expected from him. He comes here ignorant, degraded, despised, and suddenly thrown on his own responsibilities; and hence, it is natural that excesses may be frequently traced to his door. But what does Christianity say? Let us elevate the race, let us ennoble their minds, and soon will they be divested of their peculiarities, acquired in the house of bondage. Prejudice can best be removed by kindness. Let the object be rendered less offensive, and prejudice soon ceases to exist. If ignorant, enlighten; if immoral, infuse into the mind the principles of practical religion. There is no nobler work than this, or one that is more certain to yield its own reward.
He would not now stop to discuss the natural capabilities of the negro. It is well known he is a descendent of those from whom the world first derived the germs of civilization—the ancient Egyptians and Abyssinians. All the knowledge imported to Rome and to Europe originated among those people; and if the flat nose, the high cheek-bone, the thick lips—the sure characteristics of the negro—were no barriers to civilization among the Egyptians and Abyssinians; Why should they separate from the civilized world, their descendents now? Once it was a curiosity to see the negro read: and a book was formerly written to prove that it was not a sin to baptize a negro10Of the numerous tracts that considered the social, political, and theological objections to evangelization of slaves, Douglass is known to have read at least Morgan Godwyn's The Negro's and Indian's Advocate (London, 1680), and may have had it in mind. Godwyn does not list the charge that it was sinful to baptize blacks among the objections raised by opponents of such evangelization measures. He does mention the belief that free blacks and black slaves were not fully human and therefore had no souls and could not beneﬁt from religious instruction. Godwyn argues that neither the African slaves' “Complexion nor Bondage, Descent nor Country" precluded Christian instruction and that “Negros (both Slaves and others) have naturally an equal Right with other Men, to the Exercise and Privileges of Religion; of which ‘tis most unjust in any part to deprive them." Godwyn, Negro's and Indian's Advocate, Preface, 9, 38; Lorenzo J. Greene, The Negro in Colonial New England (New York, 1943). 257-59.—but now we behold the sable brow redolent with intellect, and
uplifted under the inspiring influence of the highest and noblest thoughts.
Need he mention the Carnells,11Probably a garbled reference to Henry Highland Garnet the Cromwells,12Probably Alexander Crummell. the Smiths,13James McCune Smith the
Wards14Samuel Ringgold Ward. and a host of others, who are not considered unworthy to pace the platform with the most learned and eloquent Divines of the day.
We (said he) have among us, Doctors of Law and Medicine, Editors, Ministers and Lawyers; and in every way are we progressing, though comparatively slowly, owing to the great prejudice existing in the public mind against our color.
It is in vain, however, to resist the influx of negro population. There are twelve millions on this Continent, all of whom are under the eye of God, and cannot be legislated out ofexistence. They will not all make their way to Canada, but he hopes enough will come to exert a moral influence over slavery on the United States. If Canadians want to get rid of us, they must banish slavery from the neighboring Union, for if they do not render themselves more unchristian, more inhuman than they, we will cling to this land of liberty; for where else can we go?
He was happy to meet his colored brethren on this occasion, and to them he would now speak plainly and affectionately. In escaping from slavery, and in the full enjoyment of freedom, they had assumed rights, and taken responsibilities and duties, which did not belong to them in a state of bondage; and it was necessary that they should be instructed how to act in accordance with those newly acquired privileges. If there be prejudice against the race, the colored man alone is responsible. He can, by his conduct, either increase or disarm all antipathy in the public mind towards him. If he has no character capable of acquiring respect, he must undoubtedly be despised. A black man may so far elevate himself by sobriety, industry, integrity and honesty, as to demolish opposition, while on the other hand, he may sink so low as to be an object ofdislike and distrust to all who know him. The colored people in every community must do what the whites wish them. They must be orderly, temperate, cleanly, possess good manners, taste and modesty, besides integrity and honesty in all their social intercourse with others. They must neither be vain nor arrogant, impudent nor vulgar, but manifest both courtesy and respect to those among whom they have come. He saw a few colored people a day or two ago in this town, occupying the whole width of the side-walk and refusing to allow a respectable white couple to pass, without going on the street. Such conduct ought to be strongly censured, because it has a tendency to increase the very prejudice against the negro, which already is so prevalent among the
whites. Manners are never incompatible with self-respect, while low-bred, vulgar, insolent airs are sure to engender prejudice in those towards whom they are practiced.
The colored man must also read. They are not a reading people. As for himself, he was born a slave; never was at a school in his life; learned to read and write in the streets; has acquired some knowledge of men and things, since he escaped from servitude; and has found that the higher he ascends in the scale of intelligence, the more does he grow in respectability. Formerly, his daughter was prohibited to enter the public school in Rochester; now she is admitted like others, and all prejudice towards her has ceased to exist.15In 1845, the Rochester Board of Education implemented the common council's recommendation that the city's public schools be closed to black students. The board divided the city into school districts, determined the number of schools required in each district, and organized speciﬁc schools for the instruction of black children. Douglass declined to send his eldest daughter to the black school that the city had maintained since the 1830s. In August 1848, he enrolled nine-year-old Rosetta in the Seward Seminary, Rochester's oldest female academy, but withdrew her upon learning that she was being taught in a classroom apart from the other students. During the next five years, Rosetta was educated at home by a private tutor and at schools in Albany, New York, and Oberlin, Ohio. By the spring of 1855, however, she and her younger brothers were attending District School Number 13, which the Rochester Board of Education had integrated in the early 1850s, before all the district schools were opened to black children in 1857. Douglass to H. G. Warner, n.d., in NS, 22 September 1848; NS, 20 October 1848, 10, 17 August, 2, 9 November, 7, 21 December 1849, 13 April 1855; Blake McKelvey, Rochester, the Water-Power City, 1812-1854 (Cambridge, Mass, 1945), 269-72, 286; idem, “Lights and Shadows in Local Negro History," Rochester History, 21 :6 (October 1959); Judith P. Ruchkin, “The Abolition of ‘Colored Schools' in Rochester, New York: 1832-1856," NYH. 51 : 377-93 (July, 1970); Mabee, Black Freedom, 162-63; Quarles, FD, 108. He has been made a member of the various literary societies of that city, because he has ever exhibited a thirst for the acquisition of knowledge. Therefore, it is that prejudice towards any man or people—no matter what their color—is not innate, but arises entirely from their ignorance. It is not imported from England or Wales; for he has traveled thro’ all parts of that land; has sat in the House of Lords and Commons; has been admitted to the palaces of the nobles; visited the Museums and Universities, and never did he see the first look of scorn, nor hear the first word of insult directed towards him, on account of his color. The custom is not British, but American, produced either by the slave-holder, or by the conduct of the black man himself. Natural equality is nothing for the negro to possess, if he cannot at the same time show his pale-faced brother that he has exerted his natural abilities as much as he.
It is of no use, said Mr. D[ouglass], concealing the fact, that as a people, the blacks are inferior to the whites. While the whites make the
boots, the poor negro blacks them. While the whites are giving to the world the noblest achievements in the arts and sciences, the indolent and idle black is doing nothing but kicking up his heels, or strumming on the banjo. (Here Mr. D[ouglass] humorously imitated the movement.) They must go to work. They cannot be expected to gain admission to the houses of lords and dukes, as long as they remain in profound ignorance. Even the ignorant white man is spurned from the doors of the rich; and what right have the former to ask for privileges not conceded to the latter. Besides, colored people ought to be as careful of their associates as the whites, and those who have no self-respect, nor wish to be decent and industrious, ought to be made to feel their inferiority. The black man, therefore, can never command respect from the world, so long as he allows himself to be unﬁt for any, except the most menial occupation—the boot-black, the cook, or the
The respectability of a man will always be in accordance with his capabilities of supplying the wants of society, but if it be merely the artificial wants, he has got but a ﬂimsy hold on society. He leaves no monuments behind him, to which posterity can look and admire. It is the employment ofthe intellect, and making it subservient to the practical uses of life, as well as to the cultivation of the higher duties of the social state, that acquires for the individual an enduring name. While the white mechanic points with pride and pleasure to the house he has planned and constructed; or to the ships he has modeled, he asks Sam what he has been doing, and the answer is, white-washing. Let the colored man therefore, put forth the energies of his mind, lay aside his menial occupations, endeavor to assume the same elevated position occupied by his white neighbor, and soon will he obtain that respect which ever belongs to the employment of intellect in its legitimate and proper sphere. Let him leave the grog shops and taverns, and no longer stand idling at the comers of the
streets, but go out into the world, and devote his hands and his mind to some useful and honorable occupation. He was proud of his race to-day, when on visiting the Elgin Association, at Buxton,16The 126 stockholders of the Elgin Association, incorporated in 1850, served as legal representative and ﬁnancial agent for the colony of black freemen, freedmen, and fugitive slaves located south of Chatham in present-day Ontario. Named in honor of Canada's governor general James Bruce (1811-63), eighth earl of Elgin, the settlement was organized by Free (Presbyterian) Church minister William King (1812-95), who in 1848 freed and brought to Canada ﬁfteen slaves whom he had acquired during an earlier residence in Louisiana. Settlement on the lands began in October 1849 and at the time of Douglass's visit in 1854 the colony comprised about seven hundred black residents. The settlers raised crops for sale in Chatham, labored on nearby construction projects, or worked at the pot and pearl ash factory or the sawmill established in the village. The nearly nine thousand acres of land that the Elgin Association had purchased by 1854 were resold to settlers in fifty-acre lots at $2.50 per acre, payable in twelve yearly installments. Though only blacks could purchase land in the colony. many local white children attended the settlement's generally superior schools. King, whom Douglass had met in Edinburgh in 1846, organized the Buxton Mission near the settlement and successfully lobbied to have a post ofﬁce incorporated at Buxton, by which name the colony also was known. The Association issued its last report in 1873, by which time many of the original settlers had returned to the United States, the men having enlisted in Union army regiments during the Civil War. Pease and Pease. Black Utopia, 84-l08; Winks, Blacks in Canada, 208-18; William H. Pease and Jane H. Pease. “Uncle Tom and Clayton: Fact, Fiction, and Mystery," Ontario History, 50 : 70-71 (Spring 1958); Victor Ullman, Look to the North Star: A Life of William King (Boston, 1969); Fred Landon. “The Buxton Settlement in Canada," JNH, 3 : 360-67 (October 1918); Benjamin Drew, A North-Side View of Slavery: The Refugee; or, The Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada (Boston, 1856), 273. 291-306; Samuel Gridley Howe, The Refugees from Slavery in Canada West: Report to the Freedmen's Inquiry Commission (Boston, 1864), 70, 107-10; FDP, 25 August 1854. he saw men, women
and children, who, but a short time ago, were under the rod of the slave driver, engaged in the peaceful and noble pursuit of agriculture, settled down on their own estates, administering to their own comforts, and growing in intelligence and wealth. The efficiency of their common school, where the higher branches of education are taught, and eagerly acquired, did his heart good, and filled him with hopes for the future. He would again impress upon his race to quit the rum shops, to quit, quit them at once, or they never can hope to acquire the good will or the esteem of those, amongst whom they dwell. They must feel that they have, in this free country, duties and responsibilities devolving upon them,—that if they are shielded alike with Britons by the protecting arm of British laws, they must live and act in a manner to make themselves worthy the exalted privileges to which Britain, in her overflowing sympathy, has generously admitted
The world says the black man is unfit to live in a mixed society—to enjoy, and rightly appreciate the blessings of independence—that he must have a master, to govern him, and the lash to stimulate him to labor. Let us be prepared to afford, in our lives and conversation, an example of how grievously we are wronged by such a prevailing opinion of our race. Let us prove, by facts, not by theory, that independence belongs to our nature, in common with all mankind,—that we have intelligence to use it rightly, when acquired, and capabilities to ascend to the loftiest elevations of the human mind. Let such examples be given in the mental cultivation, and moral regeneration of our children, as they increase in knowledge, in virtue and in every ennobling principle of man’s nature.
He was sorry to see that many of the colored people forget in this land
of freedom, that they ever were slaves. They neither take any interest in the cause of slavery, nor would they contribute a six pence to spread intelligence among those they have left behind in the house of bondage. Well might they hang their heads for very shame, when they behold the whites more deeply interested in their emancipation and social welfare, than they themselves are—when they witness the generous sympathies of a British people actively aroused in behalf of that liberty, which the black man too often abuses, when obtained.
He is fully aware that he may incur the censure of many of his brethren, for having spoken thus plainly, perhaps saucily. But they must ever bear in mind, that he is closely linked with them; and in proportion as they ascend in the scale of intellectual and moral improvement, so will he; whereas, if they allow themselves to sink into degradation, he also is dragged down along with them. Truth can never be too plainly told. Error loves concealment and shrinks from the light of day. He has said nothing but the truth, and those who wish to assume a position of respectability—to be esteemed by all with whom they come into social intercourse—will tender to him their sincere thanks for his plainness of speech; while the rowdy, the idler, and the loafer, only, will censure him. Let them do it. He cares not. No blame, no censure from any man will ever deter him from pursuing that course, by which alone, he believes, the moral, the social and the intellectual elevation of his race can be secured—by which they will be enabled proudly to take their stand among the various orders and distinctions of men in the world, their equals in everything, except in vice, in crime and immorality.†Douglass reprinted without change the Chatham Western Planet's narrative of this speech but added the following caveat: “(The Western Planet has, for the most part given here a report of the remarks made by us at Chatham with admirable accuracy; and we cannot withhold a grateful acknowledgement to the Editor of the Planet for allowing us to be so fully heard through his columns. There are, however, several inaccuracies in the speech, as published above, which it is proper to correct at once. We never said ‘the colored people in every community must do what the whites wish them;' but we did say, that the colored people, in every community, must do for their elevation, precisely what the whites do for theirs; and that they must make the white community as largely dependent on them, as they are upon the whites. Again, we never said, that as a people, ‘the blacks are inferior to the whites.' but we did say, that they are inferior in attainments to the whites. There are other lights and shades, perhaps quite unavoidable in a report like the above, which might be rendered more accurate, but the most
important corrections are those already noticed.)——Editor." FDP, 18 August 1854.