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Frederick Douglass Gerrit Smith, September 2, 1851



Rochester, [N.Y.] 2 Sept[ember] 1851.

Gerrit Smith Esq.


I thank you sincerely for your response to the appeal of my friend Miss Griffiths.1On 26 August 1851 Julia Griffiths wrote to Gerrit Smith, describing Douglass’s depressed state over the debts recently accumulated by the new Frederick Douglass’ Paper. Griffiths predicted that the newspaper would be in a better financial state by the fall, but asked Smith for an immediate contribution of $200 to assist Douglass’s editorial operations. Julia Griffiths to Gerrit Smith, 26 August 1851, Gerrit Smith Papers, NSyU. I regretted that you should be so soon called upon for. a helping hand,2The term “a helping hand” derives from a Latin proverb, “Give a helping hand to a man in trouble.” Stevenson, Book of Proverbs, 1129. especially in view of the very large draw which the Chaplin Case3William L. Chaplin. has made upon your purse—but necessity, my friend, would listen to no regrets. I was under the hammer, and my friend Julia seeing it cried out in my behalf. You came to my help, and I am on my legs again. I bless you for it, and that God, the friend of whose poor, you are, will ever bless you.


Have you seen Judge Conklin’s4Alfred Conkling. decision in the case of the man Daniel? As a whole it is a cheering affair. The Judge has appealed to principles in that decision which leaves slavery—property in the souls and bodies of men—without a single constitutional leg to stand upon. It is an important sign of progress of sound views on this subject when a Judge of such standing—falls back upon such principles of legal interpretation—as have made you regarded as a dangerous man.

I have received your circular in behalf of my paper.5The circular to which Douglass refers has not been located. You are a little more than just to me in your estimate of my ability.

With the aid of this circular and my own efforts in the lecturing field,6Douglass made an extended lecture tour in central New York in early October and traveled to Rhode Island in November to address at least one abolitionist meeting there. FDP, 18 September 1851. I hope to be able to pass through the autumn into the New Year free from debt.

A Female Antislavery Society has been formed in Rochester7In 1835 the women of Rochester, New York, organized the Female Anti-Slavery Society to express their antislavery sentiments. The organization proclaimed slavery a sin and called for the immediate, uncompensated abolition of slavery. The movement was little more than a social club until Julia Griffiths reorganized the group in 1850. The new Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society, a community sewing circle and antislavery association, aimed to cooperate with everyone opposed to slavery regardless of political affiliation or connection to a particular group of abolitionists. The society advocated faith in established churches and “morally self conscious politics,” thereby discouraging Garrisonian women from joining. Although the new organization never numbered more than twenty-five members, the group proved successful at fundraising to assist Douglass. FDP, 4 September 1852; Hewitt, Women’s Activism and Social Change, 81–84, 150–52, 173; Palmer, “Partnership in the Abolition Movement,” 4–5. from which I am expecting much aid. The Ladies who compose it are persons upon whom I can rely. They are intellegent and sound in our views of anti-slavery action. The constitution of the Society with the names of officers will appear in the paper of this week. Julia Griffiths is highly pleased with the results of her labors in forming this Society. I am glad on her account that she has surrounded herself with such friends.

Please remember my Love to Mrs. Smith.8Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith.

Most truly your grateful friend


ALS: Gerrit Smith Papers, NSyU. PLSr: Foner, Life and Writings, 2:158–59.



Douglass, Frederick (1818–1895)




Yale University Press 2009



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