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Frederick Douglass Gerrit Smith, August 4, 1851



Rochester, [N.Y.] 4 Aug[ust] 1851.


I thank you for your pamphlet on Civil Government.1This pamphlet reproduced a speech titled “The True Office of Civil Government” that Smith delivered in Troy, New York, on 14 April 1851. Smith later had 3,000 copies printed and distributed. In this pamphlet Smith claimed that the responsibility of government was to protect citizens from crimes, but not from competition. He railed against government protection of slavery, land monopoly, and the denial of women’s rights. He declared that, in enacting tariffs, the government had violated the individual’s right to buy and sell freely. Douglass reprinted the pamphlet in the 14 August 1851 issue of Frederick Douglass' Paper. Frothingham, Gerrit Smith, 181–84; Harlow, Gerrit Smith, 254–55. I hope to find room for the whole of it in next weeks paper. I cannot profess to agree with you in all you say in that speech—especially in respect to the bounds you set to Government—yet I am unable at present to refute your position. I have a notion that the State—not less than the church should cover the whole ground of morals—incorporating into itself all great moral truths. If Government were the thing it out to be—if it were what you are laboring for—RIGHTIOUS Government. There could be little objection to committing the education of its subjects or citizens to its charge.

You did me a real kindness introducing Mr. Crocker.2Edwin Bryant Crocker (1818—75), a native of Janesville, New York, moved to Marshall County, Indiana, with his family in 1836 and later established a law practice in South Bend. On 17 and 18 September 1851, Crocker attended the national Liberty party convention in Buffalo, New York, meeting with Douglass, who also attended. Named to the committee on nominations at the convention, Crocker served as one of three delegates from Indiana. He moved to allow Gerrit Smith to decline the party’s presidential nomination, but that motion failed. In South Bend Crocker was a defendent in the 1849 Powell fugitive slave case, which he eventually lost. The court ordered the defendants, including Crocker, to pay damages, and, having lost most of his assets, Crocker moved to California. Through the influence of his brother Charles, one of four key figures in the Central Pacific Railroad Company, Crocker served as legal counsel for the railroad, gaining himself a fortune. Crocker also became involved in politics, helping to establish California’s Republican party in 1856. FDP, 25 September 1851; Oscar Lewis, The Big Four: The Story of Huntington, Stanford, Hopkins, and Crocker, and of the Building of the Central Pacific (New York, 1969), 59, 69, 105; Allen Sharp, “The Transcontinental Career of Edwin B. Crocker,” Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, 9:22–29 (Fall 1997); DAB, 4:552. I spent an hour very agreeably with him. He is with and for Liberty, and I think he will prove a most valuable coworker. He has promised to write for our paper, and to get Subscribers for it. I had a call to day from, Professor-Upham3Thomas Cogswell Upham (1799–1872) was a Congregational minister and professor of moral philosophy at Bowdoin College in Maine from 1825 to 1867. His Elements of Moral Philosophy (1827) was used widely as a textbook. Upham was involved in the temperance and abolition movements; but, to the disdain of many, he favored African colonization. Who Was Who in America: Historical Volume, 1607–1896 (Chicago, 1963), 544; NCAB, 13:171. of “Bowdoin College.” Full two hours did he labor with me in favor of Colonisation. The dear man thinks he is doing God service—by advocating that manhating scheme. He is evidently a benevolent and pure minded man, but the thought of founding a number of “STATES” on the coast of Africa—blinds him to the malignant spirit, which he is helping to cherish. The pamphlets you dispatched for me have not arrived. Be pleased to accept my thanks for them in advance. I purpose to take the field in the course of a fortnight. I shall then have a chance to sell them. My friend Julia Griffith sends her love to yourself & Mrs. Smith.4Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith.

Your Sincere and grateful Friend


ALS: Gerrit Smith Papers, NSyU.



Douglass, Frederick




Yale University Press 2009



Publication Status