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Frederick Douglass Gerrit Smith, May 15, 1851



Rochester, [N.Y.] 15 May 1851.

Gerrit Smith Esq.


I am obliged by your favor of Saturday1Smith’s letter to Douglass has not been located.—and it should have been immediately answered, but that it came to hand when I was in the midst of getting out the present number of the “Star.” I saw Mr. Thomas2John Thomas (1814–92), an abolitionist and newspaper editor from Syracuse, New York, merged his Liberty Party Paper with Douglass’s North Star in June 1851. Thomas’s paper, which he published in Syracuse from 1849 to 1851, was rapidly failing despite the financial backing of Gerrit Smith. The new paper created from the merger was Frederick Douglass’ Paper, the name indicating which editor would be in control of the venture. Thomas agreed to accept a subordinate position as assistant editor and remained in Syracuse to conduct those duties. Thomas later became widely known for his participation in the Jerry Rescue, the rescue of the fugitive slave William “Jerry” McHenry in Syracuse on 1 October 1851. NS, 12 June 1851; Detroit Plaindealer, 15 April 1892; Harlow, Gerrit Smith, 187–88, 380. as you desired me, on the morning, yourself and Mrs. Smith3Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith. left Syracuse for Peterboro’.4Both Smith and Douglass visited Syracuse for the annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society, held 7 through 9 May 1851. New York Daily Tribune, 10 May 1851; Lib., 23 May 1851; Douglass Papers, ser. 1, 2:330–31. We had a pleasant talk about the union of papers—but came to no definite agreement. I assured him of my acceptance of your proposal to the fullist extent. That he need have no fears that in writing for the proposed paper, he would at all feel himself fettered—told him of the amounts of compensation which it was thought would be sufficient to secure his services, in fine read your letter to him—and told him I was ready to comply with it. He thought that the Sum proposed for his services was too small—he should have to give his whole time to it—and four dollars would not be sufficient to support him. Thought he should be in the office and that he could not be of much service if he were not &c.

He evidently desires to keep up the “Liberty Party paper”—and does not feel willing to have the union, unless the paper is to be made strictly a “Liberty party paper”—and nothing else. I think in this that Brother Thomas is unreasonable. While I would have the paper known as the organ


of the LP. I know of no one principle of that party—that I do should oppose. He might advocate the claims of them with all the power and earnestness which he ever exercised in his own paper—and have the satisfaction of feeling that he is speaking to thousands where before he spoke only to hundreds

I shall leave this matter just where it ought to be left, in your own hands. I Shall Stand ready at any moment to unite the papers in the manner you have prescribed—and to make the paper Such as I think your taste and judgement will approve.

The sooner the arrangement is made the better. A knowledge of the fact that such a paper has come into existence will have a good effect.

I think a great deal of female influence in all great moral undertakings—and I venture to suggest that a warm hearted earnest and intelligent woman corispondent would be a great accession to our paper. I think Sally Holly5The daughter of Myron Holley, a founder of the Liberty party, Sallie Holley (1818–93) was born in Canandaigua and raised on a farm near Rochester, New York. She attended Oberlin College and, while there, converted from political abolitionism to Garrisonianism after attending a lecture by Abby Kelley Foster. Following her graduation in 1851, Holley became an effective traveling lecturer for the American Anti–Slavery Society. During and after the Civil War, she raised funds and gathered clothing to assist the newly emancipated southern slaves. In 1870 Holley joined Caroline F. Putnam, her close friend since college days, at Lottsburg, Virginia, where they operated a school for blacks for the remainder of their lives. John White Chadwick, A Life for Liberty: Anti-Slavery and Other Letters of Sallie Holley (New York, 1899); Lee Virginia Chambers-Schiller, Liberty, A Better Husband: Single Women in America: The Generations of 1780–1840 (New Haven, Conn, 1984), 149–55; NAW, 2:205–06. such a person as I have described, and I think her services might be secured. You I think would be the person to speak to her on the subject. Will you do so?

Please remember me kindly to your dear family—tell Mrs. Smith that I am expecting much from her counsels in this matter.

I am most sincerely your grateful Friend.


ALS: Gerrit Smith Papers, NSyU. PLSr: Foner, Life and Writings, 2:154–55.



Douglass, Frederick (1818–1895)




Yale University Press 2009



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