Frederick Douglass Maria Weston Chapman, September 10, 1843
FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO MARIA WESTON CHAPMAN1Maria Weston Chapman (1806–85), known as "Garrison's lieutenant," was a forceful writer and editor of several antislavery periodicals. From a wealthy Bostonian family who educated their daughters in Europe, she briefly supervised one of the nation's first female high schools. After marrying merchant Henry Grafton Chapman in 1830, she became active in the abolitionist movement. When her husband died in 1842, abolition became the consuming work of her life. Chapman was a driving force in both the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and the American Anti-Slavery Society. Although she shunned public speaking, she served on committees and organized bazaars and other fundraising events for Garrisonians. She also edited the annual report of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society, and she assisted in editing both the Liberator and the National Anti-Slavery Standard. Clare Taylor, Women of the Anti-Slavery Movement: The Weston Sisters (New York, 1995); Catherine Clinton, "Maria Weston Chapman," in Portraits of American Women, ed. G. J. Barker-Benfield and Catherine Clinton, 2 vols. (New York, 1991), 1:147–67; Jane H. Pease and William H. Pease, Bound with Them in Chains: A Biographical History of the Antislavery Movement (Westport, Conn., 1972), 28–59; Edward T. James et al., eds., Notable American Women, 1607–1950: A Biographical Dictionary, 3 vols. (Cambridge, Mass., 1971), 1:324–25; DAB, 4:19.
Cambridge, Ind. 10 Sept[ember] 1843.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
Your favor of august 19th2Chapman's 19 August 1843 letter to Douglass has not been located. informing of a meeting resently held by the Board of managers of the massachusitts antislavery society, and of the subject of of conversation there had, Came to hand Septe 8eth at oakland. After a carful reading, I am led to conclude from the entire tone of your very kind letter, that you labor under much missapprehension concerning the whole affair of which you write, and believing this, I think a simple statement of the facts in the case may set the matter right, and render my position fully and fairly understood by yourself and the Board you reppresent. I intended to have given such a statement emmeadiately after the occurance took place at syrecuse3The Liberator announced Douglass's scheduled attendance at a three-day antislavery convention in Syracuse from 30 July to 1 August 1843. Lib., 21 July 1843. which gave rise to the rumors of which you speak: And was only induced not to do so by the hope that some disinterested person—one who had taken no part in the affair, would. I now regret that I did not carry out my intention, since the matter has taken the turn it has. I am however glad that I noted down at the time and have now in my possession the whole facts in the case, as they transpired, and will now state them as brieﬂy as I can.
On the 30eth & 31st of July, and the lst of August, we held an anti-tislavery convention at Syrecuse[.] I attended and carryed it on the two first days alone. Mr. Collins4John A. Collins. having remained behind at Utica after the holding of our antislavery convention,5According to the Liberator, Douglass, Collins, and George Bradburn intended to speak in Utica on 20 and 21 July, and again on 26, 27, and 28 July 1843. Lib., 23 June, 21 July 1843. for the purpose of holding an anti-
property meeting,6Remond, Douglass, and Abby Kelley opposed Collins's involvement in the antiproperty movement, and objected both to his mention of the issue during the antislavery meeting in Syracuse and to his scheduling of an antiproperty meeting on the evening after the antislavery meeting. Both Remond and Douglass made no secret of their disapproval. Douglass and Remond threatened to resign from the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society circuit if Collins continued to lecture, and left the meeting with some of the crowd following. Kelley attempted to mediate between the two parties, disapproving of Douglass and Remond's behavior, but noting that Collins's unstable personality rendered him unfit as an antislavery speaker. Collins did, in fact, become quite ill after the incident, and remained in Syracuse for two weeks under the care of his wife, Eunice. Chapman, for her part, agreed that Collins should not have clouded the antislavery meetings with the antiproperty issue, but recommended that the society's board reprimand Remond and Douglass for their behavior. Lib., 1 September 1843; Ward, "Charles Lexox Remond," 135–41. and Mr. Bradburn7George Bradburn. had gone, to visit Gerrit Smith8Gerrit Smith (1797–1874), a New York businessman and land speculator, became best known for his philanthropic work in such reforms as temperance and abolition. Between 1828 and 1835, he donated large sums of money to the American Colonization Society, but abandoned that movement in 1835 when his sympathies shifted to the immediate abolitionists. In th 1840s he gave approximately 140,000 acres of land in upstate New York to 3,000 black settlers, thus enabling them to qualify to vote. Smith was a founder and frequent candidate of the Liberty party, running for governor of New York on that ticket in 1840, and winning a seat in Congress in 1852. When the Free Soil merger with moderate antislavery Democrats and Whigs lured away many Liberty party supporters, Smith helped bankroll the Liberty party until 1860. Smith befriended Douglass when the latter moved to Rochester and frequently assisted in financing Frederick Douglass' Paper. Like Douglass, Smith supported John Brown, but psychological stress caused by the failure at Harpers Ferry brought on the first of a series of bipolar episodes that greatly reduced his subsequent reform activites. Ralph Volney Harlow, Gerrit Smith: Philanthropist and Reformer (1939; New York, 1972); Gerald Sorin, The New York Abolitionists: A Test Case of Political Radicalism (Westport, Conn., 1971), 269–87; Perry, Radical Abolitionism, 170–80; John R. McKivigan and Madelein Leveille, "The 'Black Dream' of Gerrit Smith, New York Abolitionist," Syracuse University Library Associates Courier, 20:61–76 (Fall 1985); NCAB, 2:322–23; DAB, 17:270–71. at Peterboroo, Mr. Collins was in town during the last day of our convention, but took little part in the in the convention, being unwell. Mr. Bradburn had arrived, but had gone on to skaneatlees9The town Skaneateles is located southwest of Syracuse in Onondaga County, New York. so I was left to carry on this meeting alone, as I had been in part in Utica, during the convention there. On the evening of the first of augst Mr. Remond arrived. We had given up the convention for the purpose of giving our friends opportunity to attind a collation that given By the ladies at the antislavery fair[.] [A]t the collation Mr. Remond was called upon to speak[.] [H]e complied in a short but happy speech. After this notice was given by the President of the the collation that there would be a property convention held the next day in the suger house in which we had just held our antislavery meeting the three previous days. Very soon after this notice was given, another was given by the same indevedual, that Mr. Remond & myself—would hold an antislavery meeting in the afternoon of the same day—and in the same house where the property had just been anounced to be held. I knew not by whose authority this conﬂicting notice was given, but supposed that some one of the many who wished to hear Mr. Remond had consulted the friends of the property convention & that they had decided to give up there meeting in the afternoon to give Mr. Remond an oppertunity to be heard by a large number who were—most anxious to hear him. Here I left the matter—until the next day just before the hour for adjourning the morning session of the community meeting. Seeing something that indicated a non intention on the part of our property friends to give there meeting, I arose, and inquired if it was understood that there would be an antisla[very] meeting there in the afternoon. At this point Mr. Col[lins] arose & said there would be a property meeting in the afternoon and went on to make a speech respecting the bigotry and narrowmindedniss of abolitionist, he was disapoint[ed] in them, he had found them to be as sectarean as others. Here the[y] could hold a convention—three days, with regard to chattle slavery, but could have no heart in the cause of universal reform, &c. &c. To this speech Mr. Remond made a short reply, in which he charged Mr. Collins with making the antislavery cause, a mere stepping stone to his own favorite theory of the right of property, and expressed the belief that the Board of managers could not sanction him as their general agent. Mr. Collin again arose, & ma[de] a long spech, as he said in defence of himself, in which he brought forward a number of ducuments some of them very complementary of himself, and purporting to have emmenated from the Board and abounded in
sentements making Mr. Collins’s half of more valu[e] to the antislavery than
some mens whole, &c. &c.
After the reading of these he went on with his spech maint[ain]ing with great warmeth and earnestness the four following propositions. I give them in his own words—with the eception of their classification.
lst the antislavery cause is a mere dabbling with affect.
2d If they abolish slavery, it will only be in form, it will remain in fact.
3d to recognize property in the soil is worse than to inslave man
4eth this universal reform movment will do more for the slave than the
When Mr. C. set down I asked to be heard for I felt that the antislavery cause had been wontonly assailed, & by one to whom I had looked up, as its warmist protector and as the meeting was professedly a free meeting, where any body might speak whenever and whatever they pleased, I felt I was violating to rule directly nor in directly by insisting on my right there to defend the cause which had been there assailed. As it was now far beyond the hour of adjournment and the meeting seemed inclined to adjourn, I gave way for adjournment with the understanding that I should speak in the afternoon. I went home and worte out the remarks I intended to make. At the opening of the afternoon meeting I took the floor and after a few preliminary remarks seting the qustion at isue fairly before the meeting[.] It was not that Mr. Collins had not a right to be a noproperty man, nor was it that he had not the right to devote one half of his time to the one, and the other half to the to the antislavery cause. No, this was the question whether it was just or honorable for Mr. Collins to labor in the one for the distruction of the other. I then went[.] I then read from my notes the positions of Mr. Collins & went on to reply to them, when I was interupted as be[ing] out of order. The meeting however insisted on [illegible] heard, and I went on about 20 minutes, and close[d] my remarks by saying that if the Board of managers did sanction the caurse of Mr. Collins, though I did not believe they did, I should feel it my duty to write them resigning my agency in carriing out the one hundred convention plan. These Dear Friend are the facts in the case that has given rise to the rumors you have heard.
I do not think you would have felt yourself called upon, did you know me as many others do, to have said any thing to me, of the Board entitling them to my Gratitude and respect. I trust I have as far one can have, a just sense of their claims to my gratitude and respect.
With great respect,
P.S. I have received a few lines from my wife10Anna Murray Douglass (c. 1813–82), Douglass’s first wife, was born free in Denton, Maryland. She was the eighth child of Bambarra and Mary Murray, slaves who had been manumitted shortly before her birth. At seventeen she moved to Baltimore, where she worked as a domestic and met Douglass at meetings of the East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society. In 1838 Murray helped Douglass finance his escape and joined him in New York City, where they were married on 15 September. During Douglass’s ﬁrst tour of the British Isles (1845–47), she remained in Lynn, Massachusetts, where she supported the family by binding shoes. There, she gained a reputation for frugality and skillful household management, qualities that would contribute greatly to her family’s financial prosperity over the years. A member of the Lynn Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society and a regular participant in the annual antislavery bazaars in Boston, she continued her antislavery activities after moving to Rochester in 1847. Unlettered, reserved, and, according to her husband, never completely at ease in white company, she seldom appeared at public functions with Douglass. She was nevertheless affectionately remembered by her husband’s associates as a “warm” and “hospitable” hostess at their home. On 9 July 1882, Anna Douglass suffered an attack of paralysis in Washington, D.C. She died there on 4 August. Lib., 18 November, 2 December 1853; Philadelphia Christian Recorder, 20 July 1882; Washington (D.C.) Post, 5 August 1882; Rosetta Douglass Sprague, My Mother as I Recall Her: A Paper Read before the Anna Murray Douglass Union, W.C.T.U., May 10, 1900 (1900; Washington, D.C., 1923); Jane Marsh Parker, “Reminiscences of Frederick Douglass,” Outlook, 51:552–53 (6 April 1895); Dorothy Sterling, ed., We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century (New York, 1984), 132–37; Julie R. Nelson, “The Best of Intentions: Anna Murray Douglass, Helen Pitts Douglass, and the Challenge of Social Equality,” Proteus: A Journal of Ideas, 12:39–42 (Spring 1995); Sylvia Lyons Render, “Afro-American Women: The Outstanding and the Obscure,” Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, 32:306–10 (October 1975). asking for means to carry on household affair[.] I have none to send hir[.] Will you please see that she is provided with $25 or $30.
Excuse my writing—in great haste—
ALS: Anti-Slavery Collection, MB. PLSr: Foner, Life and Writings, 1:110–12.