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Frederick Douglass Cornelia Cowles, December 3, 1848



Rochester, [N.Y.] 3 Dec[ember] 1848.


I have just arrived at home after a more than five weeks tour to the east1Douglass embarked on a speaking tour through Massachusetts and Rhode Island in late October 1848. From 27 October through 15 November, he spoke in various Massachusetts cities, including Springfield, Lynn, New Bedford, Abington, Plymouth, and Lowell. Douglass then traveled to Providence to attend the annual meeting of the Rhode Island Anti-Slavery Society on 16 and 17 November. He resumed his heavy Massachusetts schedule with a meeting at Springfield on 18 November and then traveled to five cities in as many days between 25 and 29 November, apparently returning to Rochester about 3 December. NS, 11, 24 November, 1 December 1848.—and have just received your kind letter of the 2d November.2The letter from Cornelia Cowles to Douglass has not been located. This fact may account to you, for which might otherwise appear almost unpardonable neglect on my part. Of course I feel grateful that your society have voted to continue my North Star.3In 1835 Betsy Cowles helped to form the Garrisonian Ashtabula County Female Anti-Slavery Society, for which she served as corresponding secretary. One of the organization’s projects might have been to raise money to support the North Star. Geary, Balanced in the Wind, 25–26, 31–32. You say in your letter “God speed you in your efforts.” Such prayers are always encourageing and blissful to my spirit. I am most happy to hear of the prosperity and harmony of your society—and hope it may so continue till the chains of the slaves are broken—and the bondman is set at liberty. My heart is sad when I look over the devided state of our ranks—and the unity of our foes; I had learned of Dear Bettsy4Betsy Cowles. where a bouts—from herself. Do remember me kindly to her when you write—and tell her that I much regretted the failure to get her letter in time, to make her a visit while at Darien City. She did wrong not to visit us at that time. I should have been most happy to have welcomed her to my heart and home.

I saw Mr. Streeter5The Reverend Sereno W. Streeter (1811–?), a native of Rowe, Massachusetts, was a member of the theological department at Oberlin College during the 1830s. In 1845 he wrote an antislavery pamphlet, American Slavery, Essentially Sinful. At the time of the 1850 US. Census, Streeter lived in Henrietta, New York, with his wife Sarah Jane and their six children. Catalogue of the Trustees, Officers & Students, of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute (Cleveland, 1836); Sereno W. Streeter, American Slavery, Essentially Sinful (Oberlin, Ohio, 1845); 1850 U.S. Census, New York, Monroe County, Henrietta, 283. your old minister about two months ago. I lectured to a temperance society of which he is president in Henrietta.6Douglass spent 4 July 1848 at an abolitionist meeting with the Reverend Sereno Streeter at the Presbyterian Church in Henrietta, New York. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss basic human rights issues and to hear antislavery lectures later that evening. NS, 7 July 1848. I find him a very fine man, though I think much in bondage to out ward forms & cerimonies, as all the clergy—the best among the worst are.

You touch me closely when you ask me when I propose to visit Ohio. That state ought to have been my home and would have been but for circumstances which ought never to have existed.7While in England, Douglass expressed the desire to edit his own antislavery newspaper, and his supporters raised the funds to launch him on this venture in Massachusetts. Upon his return, however, he found his Boston supporters hostile to the proposition for a variety of reasons, including their fear of competition for subscribers to the Liberator and the National Anti-Slavery Standard. At their request, Douglass abandoned the idea and embarked upon a tour through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, working as a correspondent for the National Anti-Slavery Standard and the Ram’s Horn. In Cleveland, the publisher and main financier of the Garrisonian Anti-Slavery Bugle, Samuel Brooke, approached Douglass and proposed that Douglass pursue his original plan, but base the operations in Cleveland. Brooke possibly hoped to merge the Bugle, which was failing financially and survived with extensive investment from Brooke, with Douglass’s journal. From 17 September through 22 October 1847, a prospectus for the North Star ran in the Bugle, listing Douglass as the editor and Brooke as one of the agents. Martin R. Delany, editor of the Pittsburgh Mystery, also appeared on the list of agents, and he also may have been key in revising Douglass’s plan. The Western Anti-Slavery Society, which the Bugle tended to represent, soon seized control of the Bugle and called upon the American Anti-Slavery Society to help continue its publication. With the eastern and western Garrisonians now seemingly united against his plans, Douglass could have abandoned his paper. Instead, he found a friendly reception in Rochester, where the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society had already been lobbying for Douglass’s involvement in its region. ASB, 17 September, 8, 22 October 1847; McFeely, Frederick Douglass, 147–49; Gamble, “‘Moral Suasion in the West,” 350–54. I shall however visit Ohio next summer,8Douglass planned a lecture tour through Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio for July 1849. However, an illness that struck him in Detroit prevented him from continuing to Ohio or Illinois. He returned toOhio to address a Cincinnati audience at the opening of a temperance hall on 4 July 1850. He did not return to the Western Reserve area again until 1854. NS, 3, 20 July 1849, 27 June, 24 October 1850; FDP, 21 July 1854. and I trust by my presence dispel some of the prejudice which has been most unjustly and unkindly created against me—by those who ought to have pursued a different course.

I shall feel happy to make Austenburgh in my way as I pass through the Western Reserve. God bless you and the Dear Circle.

Believe me in great haste Yours Always



P.S. Please Thank miss Austen9Harriet N. Austin (1825–91), a physician and health reformer, trained in hydropathic medicine at the American Hydropathic Institute in New York City. Austin became a well—known physician at the Glen Haven Water Cure in upstate New York in the early 1850s, and later cofounded the Jackson Health Resort in 1858. Austin published frequently in the Water-Cure Journal and was an advocate for reform of women’s dress, decrying tightly laced corsets and confining clothing. ANB, 1:759–60. for her kind letters—and say that I shall welcome the hour in which I shall enjoy the happiness of taking her by the hand.


ALS: Betsy Mix Cowles Papers, OKeU.



Douglass, Frederick




Yale University Press 2009



Publication Status