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Frederick Douglass Gerrit Smith, September 7, 1860


Rochester, [N.Y.] 7 Sept[ember] 1860[.]


The more I think of that Worcester Convention1 The Political Abolition Convention, called by Stephen Foster and John Pierpont for 19 September 1860. the more feel the importance of your attending it. I do hope that no surmountable difficulty2Following the failure of John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry, Gerrit Smith, one of the main conspirators, suffered a psychological breakdown. He experienced guilt and regret for his actions and soon stopped eating and sleeping. He became delirious, paranoid, and fixated on the seventeen men who died in the raid as well as on Brown’s imminent execution. In November 1859, Smith’s family
admitted him to the Utica Insane Asylum, where he spent a month recovering from what might have been an episode of bipolar affective disorder. The impact of this breakdown exacerbated Smith’s long-standing digestive and sleep ailments. His physical and mental state remained erratic for the remainder of his life. Stauffer, , 42-43, 242-45, 262; Harlow, , 410-11; McKivigan and Leveille, “ 'Black Dream’ of Gerrit Smith,” 64-76.
will prevent your being there. Your health is as precious to me as to any one outside your Dear family Circle and I would urge nothing that might endanger it. I really think that your health of body and mind would be improved by taking that Eastern trip. The freinds of Freedom and humanity know there obligations to you. You have served your day and generation as a workman who need not be ashamed of his work; but you have not done yet. When I See Lord Brougham3Henry Peter Brougham (1778-1868), first baron Brougham and Vaux, rose from advocate in the Scottish southern circuit to become lord high chancellor in the ministry of Lord Charles Grey in the early 1830s and a prominent leader of the Whig party in Parliament. Founder of the , Brougham is chiefly remembered for his efforts on behalf of legal, educational, and electoral reform, and for the role he played in the parliamentary struggle to abolish slavery. Arthur Aspinall, (1927; Manchester, Eng., 1972); Chester W. New, (Oxford, Eng., 1961); , 2:1356-66. over years old, Standing up and delivering an address of two hours—I cannot think of your ceasing to attend public meetings.

I am not a physician and my opinion may not be worth much—but I think I never Saw or heard you, at any time within the last ten years when you Seemed better able to with stand the wear and tear of public meetings. I did not urge you very strongly when in your presence, to go—Dear Mrs Smith4Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith. did that much better than either Mr Foster,5Stephen Symonds Foster. or I, could do. I do hope She Succeeded.

The Special Subject on which you would be most expected to Speak—relates to the powers of the Federal Government. You could Show as no other man can how the Federal government can reach and overthrow American Slavery. Will you my friend take this matter in to account and do attend the Convention if possible.

Yours Very truly


ALS: Gerrit Smith Papers, NSyU.



Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895




Yale University Press 2018


Gerritt Smith Manuscripts, Syracuse University



Publication Status



Gerritt Smith Manuscripts, Syracuse University