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Frederick Douglass Joseph Barker, October 16, 1847


FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO JOSEPH BARKER1Joseph Barker (1806–76), a British clergyman and abolitionist, was the editor of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Christian, and he published an edition of Douglass’s Narrative during the latter’s first trip to Britain in 1846. A controversial figure, Barker was expelled from the Methodist New Connection in 1841, and he was arrested for advocating Chartism in 1848. From 1851 to 1860, he resided in the United States, where he actively participated in the abolition movement. Douglass Papers, ser. 2, 1:88–89; Joseph Barker, The Life of Joseph Barker, ed. John Thomas Barker (London, 1880); Betty Fladeland, “ ‘Our Cause Being One and the Same’: Abolitionists and Chartism,” in Slavery and British Society, 1776–1846, ed. James Walvin (Baton Rouge, La., 1982), 95; DNB, 1:1124–26.

Lynn, Mass. 16 Oct[ober] 1847.


I have just returned from a long and severe tour through the Western States. I was absent from home nearly three months—during which time I have travelled more than three-thousand miles—attended more than one-hundred public meetings—delivered one-hundred and fifty addresses—spoken to more than fifty thousand of my fellow-countrymen, and am again at home safe and sound, in the best health and spirits.2Douglass toured Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York extensively from early August to early October 1847. Your kind letter3Joseph Barker’s letter to Douglass has not been located. was gladly received, and should have been earlier acknowledged, but for absence from home: and even now I can only say a word. I have a pile of transatlantic letters before me, the accumulation of three months. I can assure you that neither yourself, family, nor friends are forgotten. Your names, faces, tempers and dispositions are distinctly before me. I have many good talks with Walker4James W. Walker.—(who by the way is doing noble work for the slave,) concerning you—I felt myself fortunate in having a travelling companion acquainted with you—it went far to enliven and sweeten our conversation. You refer to the libellous and slanderous efforts to destroy me soon after my arrival here.5In June 1847, the editor of the New York Subterranean, Mike Walsh, reported that Douglass had been seen in the company of a white woman in the ladies’ gallery of the Albany state house. Lib., 4 June 1847. I am happy to inform you—that those slanderous efforts have been of advantage rather than injury to me. The vile man who made up the story is such a notorious liar, that he would be not be believed even were he to speak truly.6Douglass addressed these charges in a letter to William Lloyd Garrison dated 7 June 1847. That letter appears in this volume. There is not probably a week that passes, but he forges a puff of himself, and pretends to copy it from some respectable paper. He lives a good part of his time in the House of Correction, for slander and other crimes.7Walsh was associated with some of the seamier sides of New York City politics, and he served prison time at least twice for libelous remarks in his editorials. Wilentz, Chants Democratic, 329; DAB, 19:390–91. His words are powerless—except with all that is corrupt and filthy in the community.

You will kindly remember me to Mr. Holland and family.8The identity of this Mr. Holland cannot be determined, although a Reverend E. Holland of London was among Douglass’s English financial patrons during this period, and a Miss Jessie Holland of Greenside-near-Leeds, where Barker lived, was a contributor to the Boston Anti-Slavery Fair. “List of Donors to Anti-Slavery Bazaar” (n.d.), Anti-Slavery Collection, MB; FDP, 8 January 1852. I shall ever remember them with affectionate gratitude—and they shall hear from me


one day. Joseph, I want you—and the great cause of reform wants you,—in America. Your contemplated visit must not be delayed.9In June 1847, Barker left Britain for a six-month tour of the United States. Douglass was apparently unaware that Barker had already arrived in the United States. Barker, Life, 308; DNB, 1:1125. I want you to have you sow the seeds of truth over those vast Prairies of the West—while in their youth and fertility—and great will be the harvest. I hope to have a Press at work in the West in the early part of next year, and will do all I can to prepare the way.

Make my best love to your own dear family,—Oh, I would give considerable to hear your dear boy sing that noble hymn, which warmed my heart, and made Summer of Winter to my soul. My dear friend, you must excuse this hasty scrawl, and receive my love and with it, that of my family.

Your’s sincerely,


PLSr: Newcastle-upon–Tyne Christian, 4:239–40 (1 November 1847).


Douglass, Frederick (1818–1895)




Yale University Press 2009



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