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Brick to Frederick Douglass, March 16, 1854


For Frederick Douglass' Paper.

CHICAGO, March 16, 1854.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS, ESQ: DEAR SIR:— The people of our State—and I fear of the West generally—are becoming greatly dissatisfied with the tardy operations of the State and National Councils; and I am not surprized that they are.

When the National Council convened in the city of New York on the 22d of November last, the attention of the whole nation was directed to that assemblage, regarding it as second to none in importance to the colored citizens of the United States, not excepting even the National Convention which sat in Rochester in July of the same year.

Our delegates from Illinois, on their return home, expressed themselves highly pleased with the flattering prospect of doing something, in an organized national capacity, which would be beneficial, and, likewise, creditable to the colored people of the nation. And to the numerous inquiries made by the PEOPLE, who sent them on this mission, they replied that many excellent resolves had been enacted in council, which they believed to be practical; but for particulars they referred us to the proceedings, which would appear in the columns of the Aliened American and Frederick Douglass' Paper. We have waited now some four months for these proceedings, but they have not yet come to light. I understand that Mr. Wm. C. Nell, who acted as Recording Secretary of the National Council at their meeting in New York, was appointed by that body to prepare their proceedings for publication.

I learn from a note, received by a friend of mine a short time since, from Mr. Nell, that the proceedings were duly prepared by that gentleman, on his return to Boston, sent on to Dr. Pennington of Brooklyn, N. Y., with a request that he forward them on to Mr. Day for publication in the Aliened American. This seems to be the last of them; perhaps the Dr. has consigned them to oblivion, instead of the press.

I have, from the outset, regarded this movement with much favor, and have been


fully committed in all honorable efforts to attain in the highest degree its aims and objects up to the present time. I shall hope and believe in its success; but the indifference with which this measure is treated by the avowed friends is not at all calculated to inspire such hope and confidence in its ultimate success and usefulness. Indeed, this apathy of our friends, in the ranks of the National Council, have already caused much incredulity amongst the people.

I have a word to say also in relation to the Illinois State Council; and sorry am I that it is not to their honor. They met in this city on the 2nd of January, and proceeded to business. The members of the National Council being present, a motion was made to constitute them honorary members of that body; but this met with most bitter opposition from many of the most prominent members, who gave as a reason that such procedure would be illegal, and without precedent—and therefore could not be entertained by that august body. The sequel shows, by the meagre and tame character of the business done by them, that all were not Solomons who sat in that Council.

On looking over the proceedings of other State Councils, I find they have invariably given their National Councilmen, when present, a voice in their deliberations; but it seems that our Egyptian hairsplitters, in grave conclave assembled, being entirely satisfied with their superior legislative wisdom and experience, have refused to extend such [illegible] theirs; though I learn that a resolu[tion] [was] passed towards the close of the ses[sion] [gra]nting them the privilege of making [SUGGE]STIONS, but denying them the privi[lege] of speaking to those SUGGESTIONS[;] I mention this to show you that narrow and selfish policy which prevailed in OUR STATE COUNCIL—the collected wisdom of the State. I send herewith the pamphlet containing their proceedings, and in which you will discover that nearly one entire day was consumed in an attempt to DISFRANCHISE WOMEN! What think you, sir, of that? Can anything be done for the good of our people by such illiberal State policy as this? and unless a more wise and consistent course is pursued, will not that people become disgusted with this whole State organization, and refuse to give it their support or countenance? These strictures are not


intended to apply to all the members of the State Council, by no means. There are honora[ble] [exce]ptions in that body—men who h[ave] [at] [hea]rt the general welfare of the people [illegible] [wh]o despise the selfish and contracted views of the majority, who have shown themselves such sticklers for nonsensical and exploded customs—such old fogyism. I think the State Council would have done themselves far more credit, and the State more service, by recommending some practical and systematic plan of moral and political organization and union—one dictated by common sense—instead of spending the greater portion of their time in useless discussion upon the propriety of allowing women to vote. If we take from these printed proceedings the constitution and the women's rights discussion, what remains of it?

I do not make these complaints of the treatment of the National Councilmen simply because they were thus treated, but solely because they were identified with, and conversant also with, the entire movement; and if they could have been of service to the people, by acting in the State Council, they should by all means have been chosen honorary members of that body, and treated with the same courtesy that Ohio, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Michigan, and other States, have their National members.

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March 16, 1854


This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


Frederick Douglass' Paper



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