Frederick Douglass Gerrit Smith, July 2, 1860
FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO GERRIT SMITH
Rochester[, N.Y.] 2 July 1860.
HON GERRIT SMITH
MY DEAR FRIEND:
I am glad to receive your note of this morning,1Smith’s note to Douglass has not been located. and Sincerely thank you
for your draft for twenty dollars, being the Second twenty you have sent
me Since I got home. Did I see my way to keep the weekly going, I would
gladly retain the draft, but the paper must go down2The final issue of Frederick Douglass’ Paper appeared on 29 June 1860. and I therefore return
your drafts. I am as deeply grateful to you as if I retained it. During the
last six months my weekly has been running behind its income at the rate
of from $25 to $30 per week. On finding its low condition when I got
home I at once decided to stop on the first of June—and said as much in
the paper—but during the first week in june there was owing to the ap-
peal made to the readers and friends of the paper, such animprovement
in the reciepts that I ventured to assure its readers that the paper would be
continued. Since then, however, the receipts have fallen nearly to nothing
while the expenses stand as fortifive and fifty dollars per week. Under
these circumstances I See nothing for me but to let the paper go down.
You may well believe that after nearly thirteen years of efforts to put
the paper on a permanent bases and make it an established AntiSlavery
instrumentality, that I am now very Sorry to give up the struggle. There
is no escape and I submit. I shall here after only publish my monthly pa-
per—lI shall look with interest for your letter in the “Principia[.|”3The Principia, sometimes titled the National Principia, was a New York City antislavery weekly newspaper published by William Goodell from 1859 to 1864. It was the successor to his Radical Abolitionist, which had been the official organ of the moribund American Abolition Society. In the late 1850s, Goodell and his longtime patron Gerrit Smith quarreled over theological issues, since the latter publicly embraced a “religion of reason.” Harlow, Gerrit Smith, 383-90; Perkal, “William Goodell,” 293-98. I can-t
Support Lincoln4The Illinois politician Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), a Whig turned Republican, was sworn in as the sixteenth president of the United States on 4 March 1861. Upon meeting Lincoln at the White House in 1863, Douglass was charmed by the president’s earnest political considerations of emancipation. A year later, Lincoln granted Douglass’s request that his son Charles be discharged from the army due to illness. In a private meeting on 19 August 1864, Lincoln and Douglass discussed stepping up efforts to recruit slaves to the Union’s cause. Lincoln was elected to a second term in November 1864, and Douglass attended his inauguration festivities. James M. McPherson, Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution (New York, 1990), 109, 134-35, 139; Phillip Shaw Paludan, The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln (Lawrence, Kans., 1994), 4-5, 15-16, 183, 285-87; McFeely, Frederick Douglass, 229-35.—but whether there is life enough in the Abolitionists to
name a Candidate I cannot say—I shall look to your letter5In his characteristic fashion, Smith took the occasion to reply to Douglass in a printed broadside letter distributed to veteran political abolitionists and the press. Smith assailed the low antislavery standards of the Republican party and called on abolitionists to stand by their principles. [Gerrit Smith] Gerrit Smith to Frederick Douglass, 13 July 1860 (Peterboro, N.Y., 1860), n.p.; McPherson, Struggle for Equality, 17-18. for light on the
pathway of duty.
I am still intending to return to England in September, and whether I
go or not, you may expect a call from me at Peterboro.
Did our friend George L Stearns6A leading financial supporter of John Brown, George Luther Stearns (1809-67) was the son of a teacher from Medford, Massachusetts. Stearns earned progressively larger fortunes as a ship chandler, a linseed oil processor, and a lead pipe manufacturer. He joined the antislavery movement in the early 1840s as a Liberty party activist and later was an important organizer of the Massachusetts Free Soil and Republican parties. While chairman of a committee to raise funds to arm free-state settlers in Kansas Territory, Stearns met John Brown and became a supporter of his plan to incite a slave insurrection. Although he fled to Canada after Harpers Ferry, Stearns soon returned to the United States. He testified before congressional investigators that he had no advance knowledge of Brown’s plans, and now condoned the attack. During the Civil War, Massachusetts governor John A. Andrew engaged Stearns to enlist troops for the first black regiment raised in the North, the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry. By establishing recruiting offices across the North and Canada and by hiring agents, including Frederick Douglass, Stearns quickly enlisted enough blacks to fill two regiments for Massachusetts. Impressed by his success, the federal government commissioned Stearns as a major and placed him in charge of recruiting blacks into federal army units. By January 1864, Stearns had brought substantial order to these efforts, but then resigned, in part to protest the unequal pay and treatment of black soldiers. He remained an advocate of equal rights for blacks; in the 1860s, he helped found such periodicals as the Nation and the Right Way to champion that cause. Frank Preston Stearns, The Life and Public Services of George Luther Stearns (Philadelphia, 1907); Dudley Taylor Cornish, The Sable Arm: Negro Troops in the Union Army, 1861-1865 (New York, 1956), 235-38, 242-43; Rossbach, Ambivalent Conspirators, 56-63, 83-85, 221-23, 239-40, 254-57. from Boston Call upon you ten
days ago? I took the Liberty to tell him I knew you would be glad to See
him. I had a call on friday from Rev Samuel Green.7Douglass most likely meant Beriah Green’s brother Jonathan Smith Green (1796-1878) instead of his son Samuel Worcester Green. Born in Preston, Connecticut, Jonathan Smith Green studied at Andover Seminary, from which he graduated in 1827. After graduation, Green and his wife, Theodosia Arnold, left for Honolulu, Hawaii, and returned to the United States only periodically over the next fifty years. Green experimented with agricultural crops not native to Hawaii, earning the appellation the “father of the wheat culture.” Jonathan Smith Green, an ardent abolitionist, initially supported Beriah’s efforts. In the late 1850s, however, the two disagreed over Beriah’s seeming lack of commitment to Christianity. Sernett, Abolition’s Axe, 4, 12-13, 119, 132, 135, 159. His cheerful spirit
after the long years of missionary toil speaks well for a life of labor and
usefulness. Thirty two years among the Heathen has left him yet hale and
strong. I was Surprised to find that he had not yet Seen you—I Saw much
in Mr Green to remind me of his great Brother at Whitesboro8Beriah Green.—Please
remember me kindly to Dear MrS Smith9Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith.
And Beleive Always Very Sincerely your grateful friend
ALS: Gerrit Smith Papers, NSyU.