Frederick Douglass Richard D. Webb, December 6, 1845
FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO RICHARD D. WEBB
Belfast, [Ire.]1The placeline of the letter also includes "Victoria Hotel." 6 December 1845.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
You have already been informed of our success in getting the cause before the people in this place.2On 5 December 1845, Douglass addressed the Anti-Slavery Society of Belfast and was very well received. Belfast Northern Whig, 9 December 1845; Douglass Papers, ser. 1, 1:86–97; Taylor, British and American Abolitionists, 247–48, 253–55. From all I can see now, I think it will be of the utmost importance that I remain here a much longer time than that alotted in the first instance[.] The field here is ripe for the harvest.3A paraphrase of Rev. 14:15. This is the very hot bed of presbyterianism and free churchism,4Presbyterianism, a belief system based in Calvinist theology, placed church government under representative assemblies rather than bishops or congregations. William H. Gentz, ed., The Dictionary of Bible and Religion (Nashville, Tenn., 1986), 837–39. a blow can be struck here, more effuctually than in any other part of Ireland. One nail drove in a sure place is better than a dozen driven at random, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.5The proverb "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" dates to the fifteenth century. Stevenson, Book of Proverbs, 182–83. It is better to have a few true friends—than a great many acquantances.6This proverb, also knows as "it is better to have one friend of worth than many worth nothing," dates to the pre-Christian Greek era. Stevenson, Book of Proverbs, 890. To be known throughly by a few is better than being known slightly by many. Well then, the conclusion I draw from this—though it may seem a most lame and impotent one—is, that I had much better remain here, and go from here to Scotland than to go, to Bermingham on the sixteenth Dec.7On 6 January 1846, Douglass delivered his last major address in Ireland at a public breakfast sponsored by the Belfast Anti-Slavery Society. He then sailed to Glasgow for an antislavery lecture tour of Scotland. Belfast News Letter, 9 January 1846; Glasgow Argus, 22 January 1846; Douglass Papers, ser. 1, 1:126–30.—Will you not my Dear friend Do what you may to have me released[?] I think you will have little difficulty in doing so—if any think may be heard from the cold letter from Mr. Cadbury,8The letter from Richard T. Cadbury has not been located. which talks of some ones paying my expences to the meeting &c. &c. You can manage it I know if you think best—so here I leave the matter. Well all my Books went last
night at one blow. I want more[.] I want more. I have every thing to hope and—nothing to fear[.] [T]he paper of this morning took a favorable notice of my meeting last night and a deep interest seems to be excited. I have written to Shortt9William Shortt, and Irish Methodist from Dublin, was an ardent Garrisonian. Shortt wrote a public letter rebuking Methodists in Dublin and Cork when they refused Douglass access to their meeting-houses. Shortt probably raised another issue in a private letter to Douglass about his condemnation of local Methodists. Shortt's letter to Douglass has not been located. Cork Examiner, 12 January 1846. telling him of my success in getting the methodist meeting house, in the face of letters prejudicial to me both from Cork and Dublin. Shortt did not like my remarks at the Exchange, the other Evening. He has written me a long letter giving me his views of of the subject there discussed. So you see I am not without counsel. I found the blankit Thomas10Thomas Webb. gave me, of great service to me—many Thanks to him for it. I had a call from Mrs. Webb11Maria Webb was the corresponding secretary of the Belfast Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society. The wife of Thomas Webb was also named Maria Webb, but this was not the same person. Taylor, British and American Abolitionists, 239; 1847 Mail Book of the North Star, Financial Papers File, reel 29, frame 399, FD Papers, DLC. of this town—wishing to ingage me for two Days at her house. She is a very good proper looking person. I[']ve engaged for one day only. Well you will want to know—how I geet on at the Hotel—comfortable—comfortable. The friends have placed me here they say to make me accessable to every one that wishes to see me[.] They have gained their purpose thus far.—"Still they come,"12Macbeth, act 5, sc. 5, line 2. I can thus far truly say Every one that hear me seems to think he has a special claim on my time to listen to his opinion of me. To tell me just how much he condemned and how much he approved. Very well, let them come. I am ready for them though it is not the most agreable.
In great haste excuse the—writing Very truly yours
ALS: Anti-Slavery Collection, MB. PLSr: Foner, Life and Writings, 5:13–14.