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Abner H. Francis to Frederick Douglass, January 10, 1851



Buffalo, [N.Y.] 10 Jan[uary] 185[1].1The printed letter erroneously lists the year as 1850.


In transmitting to you, in behalf of the Fair Committee, the nett proceeds of the Buffalo North Star Fair,2The Buffalo Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society held a benefit on New Year’s Eve in 1850 to aid Douglass’s newspaper. NS, 5 December 1850. the Committee regret that the result, in a pecuniary point of View, was not in keeping with the spirit of the age or good feeling which swells the bosoms of this benevolent community. The great cause for the small amount realized, I do not hesitate to say originated from the large number of similar movements for benevolent purposes,3In the mid-nineteenth century, the week following Christmas had a commercial aspect of gift-giving while still retaining many of the jubilant characteristics of eighteenth-century Christmas celebrations. From mid-December through mid-January, newspapers advertised a host of celebrations in honor of the season. The citizens of Buffalo could attend the Fireman’s Ball on 31 December 1850, a ball held by Mr. Delano at the Concert Hall on 1 January 1851, and the Anniversary Ball of the Buffalo Cavalry Company on 8 January 1851, all for a small entrance fee. Antislavery societies often held their annual fairs during this time in order to capitalize on the spirit of the season. In the case of the Buffalo organization, the competition from other sources could also become a detriment to their profits.
Buffalo Daily Courier, 30, 31 December 1850; Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas (New York, 1996).
gone into but a few days prior and from which large amounts were realized. Although other causes combined had their effect—being New Year’s Eve, a time when the noble and ignoble have their attention drawn into the various channels which an important day like it has from time almost immemorial produced, and the delinquency of feeling towards the anti-slavery cause produced in this Fillmore region,4Millard Fillmore (1800-1884), thirteenth president of the United States, represented the Buffalo region in the New York state legislature (1828-32) and in the US. House of Representatives (1833-35, 1837-43), where he generally voted with the Henry Clay wing of the Whig party. Defeated in the 1844 New York govemor’s race, Fillmore secured the Whig vice-presidential nomination in 1848 and assumed the presidency upon Zachary Taylor’s death in July 1850. Fillmore vigorously advocated passage of the Compromise of 1850 and signed each of its measures into law. Denied his party’s nomination in 1852, Fillmore ran for president on the American party ticket in 1856 and supported John Bell and the Constitutional Union party in 1860. NCAB, 6:177-78; DAB, 6:380-82. by acquiescence to Fillmore logic and Fillmore degeneracy—this, in connection with the short notice for holding the Fair, at once explains the cause. The Committee nevertheless feel to thank God and take courage. Much has been effected by the gatherings (though small,) the three successive evenings on which the fair was held. To know the fact that a few choice spirits remained in Buffalo, who were willing to rally around the standard of Liberty, to act and to listen to the urgent appeals of him, who, but a few years since, writhed under all the cruelty and injustice which the infernal system of slavery necessarily engenders, will not be without its benefits. A great effect also was produced by the three lectures delivered by you on the opening each evening of the Fair; many new and warm personal friends were made for yourself as well as for the cause. The scathing rebuke which was given, in your first lecture, to that arch fiend and hypocrite, J. C. Lord, D.D., who preached on last Thanksgiving the justice of the fugitive slave law and slavery in general, was a decided triumph, and had its good effect.5 In a sermon delivered at his church on the 12 December 1850 observance of Thanksgiving, John Chase Lord (1805-77), the founder and pastor (1835-73) of Central Presbyterian Church, Buffalo, New York, urged obedience to the Fugitive Slave Law. The Union Safety Committee, a coalition of New York City Whig and Democratic businessmen determined to preserve the Union through compromise, later distributed Lord’s sermon as the pamphlet “Higher Law” in Its Application to the Fugitive Slave Bill: A Sermon on the Duties Men Owe to God and to Governments (New York, 1851). Although no text of Douglass’s speech has been located, his attack probably paralleled others in speeches and editorials he offered during 1851 and 1852. For example, in a speech at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall on 12 January 1851, Douglass characterized Lord’s teaching as a “bold and blasphemous theory.” He went on to describe Lord and other clergy with similar opinions as “hypocritical Doctors of Divinity” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing—thieves and liars,” whose ability to preach such ideas “with impunity from Northern pulpits, implies a depth of moral debasernent and blindness in the community beyond the power of human language to describe.” NS, 16 January 185 l; Douglass Papers, ser. 1, 2:285; Philip S. Foner, Business and Slavery: The New York Merchants and the Irrepressible Conflict (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1941), 42, 55-57; ACAB, 4:25. The second lecture on prejudice against color, proving that it was condition and not color, was not only highly approved for its literary and historical character, but for the incontrovert[i]ble truthfulness of the position assumed. The third lecture principally treated upon the false charges hurled against you on the ground of infidelity, was final and conclusive in the minds of many, who have heretofore opposed you on religious grounds, that all such accusations have been false and malicious exonerates you forever from this charge in Buffalo. In presenting you the nett proceeds, $54, 17, allow me to


assure you, with such friends as Mr. and Mrs. Richard Jones, Mrs. Turner, P. Harris6Peyton Harris, a prominent member of the Buffalo black community, was one of the founders of the black Michigan Street Baptist Church. In 1844 he donated the building materials for the construction of the church and served as a church officer. Harris participated in many of the antislavery activities of the congregation and acted as its delegate to the 1849 National Colored Convention in Troy, New York, where he was elected one of three vice presidents. In 1857 he chaired a Committee that resolved to shun William Cooper, a fugitive who turned in his fugitive wife. That same year, Douglass made special mention of Harris in regard to his work for the race and petitions to the legislature for equal suffrage. FDP, 13 March, 14 August 1857; Monroe Fordham, “Origins of the Michigan Street Baptist Church, Buffalo, New York,” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, 21: 10—14 (1997). and family, Mrs. Shields, Mrs. Simpson,7Francis possibly refers to the wife of John Simpson, a member of the black East Presbyterian. Church in Buffalo, New York, who opposed Jim Crow schools. Arthur 0. White, “The Black Movement against Jim Crow Education in Lockport, New York, 1835-1876,” New York History, 50:265-82 (1969). Mrs. Cezar,8Francis probably refers to Hannah A. Cesar, or Cezar (c. 1819—?), the wife of Richard Cesar (c. 1809-?), a successful black barber born in Kentucky. Their family lived at 139 North Division Street in Buffalo. 1850 U.S. Census, New York, Erie County, Buffalo, Second Ward, 92; Thomas Jewett, Commercial Advertiser Directory for the City of Buffalo (Buffalo, N .Y., 1851), 130. Miss. Hawkins,9Miss Hawkins might have been either Louisa (c. 1830—?) or Lydia (c. 1831*?) Hawkins, daughters of David H. Hawkins (c. 1800-?) and his wife Esther (c. 1803—?) David H. Hawkins was a well-to-do sexton who was born in Washington, D.C. The family lived at 96 North Division Street in Buffalo. 1850 Census, New York, Erie County, Buffalo, Second Ward, 98; Jewett, Directory for the City of Buffalo (1851), 183. Mrs. Francis10Lynda Francis was the wife of Abner H. Francis. Ripley, Black Abolitionist Papers,4: 106-07n. and others, that no lack of energy shall be wanting to aid the cause of universal emancipation.

In behalf of the Committee,

A. H. F.

PLIr: NS, 16 January 1851.



Francis, Abner Hunt (1813-1872)




Yale University Press, 2009


North Star



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North Star