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Frederick Douglass to Anna Richardson, April 29, 1847



Lynn, Mass.1The placeline of this letter also includes “U.S.” 29 April 1847.


After sixteen days and six hours of fierce conflict with the winds, waves, and the innumerable perils of the deep, I am once more on solid earth. Thanks to the Giver of every good and precious gift[,]2James 1:17. I am once more at home; once more with the wife of my bosom,3Anna Murray Douglass. and in the midst of the dear children of my love.4Sons six-year-old Lewis Henry, five-year-old Frederick, Jr., and three-year-old Charles Remond.

You will have learned ere this that I was proscribed and placed beyond the pale of the society of my fellow-passengers during the voyage. This, my dear friend, was an early foretaste of what now awaits me in this boasted land of republican freedom. I care not for it. These things cannot always be. In this instance, aside of the pain of compulsion, I suffered little from the proscription, since it merely placed me beyond the society of a large number with whom I could have no affinity; while, on the other hand, nearly all the Christian portion of the passengers sought out my apartments, and took pleasure in treating me with the kindness due to a man and a brother. . . . .
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My dear Anna is not well, but much better than I expected to find her, as she seldom enjoys good health. She feels exceedingly happy to have me once more at home. She had not allowed herself to expect me much, for fear of being disappointed; but she was none the less glad to see me on that account. My three boys—Charles, Lewis, and Frederick, have grown rapidly, though not out of my knowledge. Lewis and Frederick knew me well at first sight, and ran with joy to meet me. And such a meeting! I would that you could have seen it. As soon as it was possible to land at East Boston from the steamer, I leaped on shore, without stopping a moment to look after luggage, and ran through a crowd of friends who had assembled on the wharf to meet me, simply bowing as I passed. Thus making my way to the station, I took the first train for Lynn. In twenty-five minutes, I reached Lynn, the train passing my door, from which I saw all my family five minutes before getting home, as I had to get out at the station. When within about fifty yards of our house, I was met by my two bright-eyed boys, Lewis and Frederick, running and dancing with very joy to meet me. Taking one in my arms and the other by the hand, I hastened into the house. Here imagination must fill up the picture.


‘Kings may be blest, but I was glorious,

O’er all the ills of life victorious.’5Robert Burns’s poem “Tam O’Shanter, A Tale” reads, “Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious, / O’er a’ the ills o’ life victorious!” Burns, Poems and Songs, 444.

. . . . . . . . . . . . It is good to be at home; good to be among those whose welfare and happiness depend so much upon myself. ’Tis good to feel the tranquillising influence of home. Already I feel my heart improved.

Dear Anna and myself are intending to visit Albany in a few days; and we shall then see our only girl, Rosetta.6Rosetta, Douglass’s eight-year-old daughter, was living with Abigail and Lydia Mott while attending school in Albany, New York. I received a sweet letter from her the day after my arrival at home. She is well . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

From all that I have learned thus far, I shall have a fiery furnace7A reference to Dan. 3:6. to move through here. The spirit of war rages. The war for the extension of slavery is daily becoming more and more popular; and he is branded as a traitor who utters himself with any decision against it. Smartng under the recollection of my exposure of them abroad, the pro-slavery party here, in Church and State, feel quite malignant toward me; and will, doubtless, manifest their feelings by their conduct. I have no fear. The Lord reigns. Let the earth be glad.8A variation of Ps. 97:1. It is my desire daily, to know that my life is hid with God in Christ Jesus.9A reference to Eph. 3:9. I will not fear. God is with me; the right is with me; and they must and will prevail. I shall continue to devote my time and strength to our holy cause. Pray for me . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

All England is clear to me; and, though long in her borders, and absent from home, and anxious to be at home, I left her with a heaviness of heart that words cannot express.

I have now my manumission papers in my possession, and will send you a copy by the next steamer. There is nothing that will sting the Americans more than the fact, that I landed on your shores a slave, and came back a freeman. I left republican America a slave; I returned from monarchial England a freeman .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Yours always,


[P.S.] I still look forward to some connection with the press as a means of promoting the cause, and securing a living.

PLeSr: Newcastle-upon-Tyne Christian, 3:521–22 (1 June 1847).



Douglass, Frederick




Yale University Press 2009



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