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Ethiop [William J. Wilson] to Frederick Douglass, April 22, 1854



BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, April 22, 1854.

MY DEAR DOUGLASS:—We thought here the time of the singing of the birds had fully come. They thought so, too—blessed little warblers! But alas! it has proved the time of their burial. Yes, though past mid-April, we have had a snow—sleighing snow —and whole armies of robins—our great favorites here, and leaders of our forest-orchestra—found beneath it untimely and unwelcome graves. So much for the uncertainty of coming events. We may recall the past but tell nothing of the future.—Within the last few weeks the dull tedium of time in Brooklyn has been somewhat relieved by concerts.

The first of these was given in the Siloam Church by Madam Miller—Professors Brady and Jackson conducting the orchestra. I was, at the time of the occurrence of this concert, disposed to enter into some criticisms; but it has so long passed, I deem it now unnecessary, except to say, Madam Miller's powers and compass of voice are truly wonderful, and her executiveness good—in some respects, excellent. Though laboring under a severe cold at the time, none, I think, could fail to discover this. She was assisted throughout, by Messrs. Waldron, Bowser, and R. Hamilton—in some parts well sustained, and in others not as well as could have been desired; but, upon the whole, it was a fine mental treat, and well did we enjoy it. Mr. Robert Hamilton sang "Rocked in the cradle of the deep,"with fine effect.

Not satisfied, however, with this, (why should we be,) the choir of the Siloam Church took flame, which nothing would quench save another concert. This came off about a week after Madam Miller's, to a crowded house, and to the satisfaction of all. To characterize any portion of it as best, would be a mistake. It was excellent in the beginning—middle—end. About a year ago, this same choir gave their first concert, which then pleased a large audience. You may judge of the effect produced by this second one, from the fact, that when Rev. Mr. Freeman, on the following Sunday, announced its repetition; and added, the first was good, the second better, and the repetition is intended to be best. The house was again crowded, and this only a week
distant from the first night. Jerome R. Scudder is the Leader of this choir, and deserves much credit for his years of effort and perseverance, having been with this church and choir from the commencement.

Speaking of church matters, I may here mention that the Rev. A. N. Freeman, of the Siloam Church, has just been appointed Moderator of the Brooklyn Presbytery by an unanimous vote—Dr. McLain, of Williamsburgh, late of Maryland, and the same divine who, in 1851, declared it wrong "to
refuse obedience to the Fugitive Slave Law," making the nomination, and Dr. Cox supporting it. Is this not a significant sign of the times?

A private correspondence, I am informed, has, for some time, been carried on between Observer and one of the secret correspondents of the El Mulatto; and some sharp passages have already occurred—indeed, it is a very pretty little affair, as it stands.—Toe the mark, gentlemen, on both sides; and let there be no smell of powder; Cuba will need all that commodity ere yet—and for aught, you, too.


Who that has passed along the anti-aristocratic streets of Gotham, but has observed the fierce, and often merciless attacks made by grocers' dogs, and butchers' dogs, and low-life dogs, about town in general, upon the poor rag and bone-pickers, while every body else is permitted to pass unmolested. Just after witnessing one of these fierce encounters, between an apparently old Dutch bone-picker and a snarling little whiffit, and endeavoring to pick out the philosophy of it, Spectator's last, on Ethiop, together with comments, Editorial, &c., came to hand; and between my former train of thought, and these little bilocose [sic] demonstrations, I began to be a little puzzled. Happily at this juncture, a grocer's clerk came to my relief, by
explaining, in a word, what seemed to me sufficiently philosophical for at least a week's study. "Do you know," said he, "why that firce [sic] demonstration on the part of our little dog, Joco?" "No," said I. "Because," said he, "the old Dutchman digs up and takes away all his BONES." If, in my puzzle, anything like a comparison was about to enter my mind, I instantly dismissed it.—Far from anything like a similarity be there between Spectator and Joco.

Another week later, and another budget of the same dear Aliened came, fragrant from the western wood, and blooming with flowers, not unaccompanied with thorns, thistles and brier-switches, plucked as usual by delicate lady fingers. I have said these bouquets were not without a pretty fair inter-spersion of thorns, thistles and switches—aye, and, my dear sir, don't these same delicate fingers know how to use them, too, when they think it necessary? I confesss I have been able to deeply sympathie with poor Job, after any one of Madam Caudle's curtain lectures, as I think you must; I can, too, look back far enough to remember, in my diminutive boyhood, very distinctly the thrashing once given me by my mother, (good woman!) for what she deemed some slight indiscretion or blunder; indeed, my brothers and sisters—my whole family regarded these (mishaps, blunder and errors) as my sole inheritance, and cut me off with very little else; but oh! my dear sir, you can not feel sufficiently for poor Ethiop, after the whaling he has just received, over his defenceless head and shoulders, through this same dear Aliened, with one of these switches, by the hand of Fanny Homewood. My only solace is—and, my dear Douglass, tell Fanny so—that I hope she will yet repent of not mine, but her own error. I never said that Fanny was a man. I never once intimated, that because the delicate fingers were colored that indited those sharp, epistles, over the signature of Fanny Homewood, they were men's fingers—no, never! I only stated what suspicion, with its wicked tongue, whispered hereabouts; and, if nothing more, I am happy (though blunderingly done) to have given so fine an opportunity, as she has availed herself of, to blow foul suspicion to the wrathful winds of heaven, and to say to the world that she has so nobly proven herself a woman. I bow to the beautiful response thus given profoundly.—Shame and confusion, truly, be upon Ethiop, when he so far forgets himself as to doubt a lady. "Come to Pittsburgh," you say. Nothing would give me more pleasure; and be assured, dear madam, that when a wave or so more of life's bustle and tempest is o'er, I shall endeavor to come, and to sip with you


and yours a cup of that fine Ethiopian coffee, of which you so justly boast, with a grateful heart, and pleasantly chat, I hope, the whole matter over with you.

Nothing above the horizon, just now, in Gotham, except Fred. Douglass, Jr., is well; so is Charlottle K.; so is Communipaw. I cannot just now tell of the whereabouts of Maria. Cosmopolite is putting his armor on, equipped, I am told, to the teeth, for the Emigration battle; Observer, ditto; with the addition of El Mulatto and Cuba fillibustering, for which, it is said, his panoply looks more formidable than a Roman legion.—Veretas—little fellow—the last I saw of him was, with cane in hand, perambulating the L. I. Railroad tunnel, just under the Heights. I hope the locomotive did not pass down just then. Occator stops within doors just now, on account of the weather.

Yours, truly,



Wilson, William J. (Ethiop)




Ethiop [William J. Wilson] to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick Douglass P, 5 May 1854. Reports events in Brooklyn, including a concert given by Madam Miller; comments on an exchange of letters between himself and Fanny Homewood.


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


Frederick Douglass' Papers, 5 May 1854



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Frederick Douglass' Papers