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Frederick Douglass Gerrit Smith, February 13, 1852



Rochester, [N.Y.] 13 Feb[ruary] 1852.

Gerrit Smith Esq.


You have not time to write nor to read long letters[.] I shall therefore come at once to the point. I have noticed (and the fact can not have altogether escaped your observation) namely, that certain gentlemen of the Liberty party are either prepared to abandon or to have that organisation absorbed by another less radical, less stringent, and I think less comprehensive in its character;—a party which will command more votes.1The remnant of the Liberty party, led by Gerrit Smith, attempted to move the antiextensionist Free Soilers to a higher ground. Smith, Douglass, and a few other of their small group attended the Pittsburgh convention of the renamed Free Democratic party. The Liberty men failed in efforts to persuade the more moderate antislavery delegates to adopt a strong platform especially opposing racial discrimination. Though divided over their future course, the Liberty party ranks eventually nominated William Goodell as their presidential candidate. Sewell, Ballots for Freedom, 241–46. If I have not misread- and misunderstood certain recent articles from our friend Thomas,2John Thomas editorialized repeatedly on political subjects in Frederick Douglass ’ Paper during 1852. As Douglass describes, Thomas advocated that Liberty party men endorse the ticket nominated by the Free Democratic party. FDP, 26 February, 18 March, 13 May, 13, 27 August 1852. he fully approves this policy, and is quite ready to unite on the platform of the Freedemocracy of Ohio. I have been informed that James C. J ackson[,]3James Caleb Jackson (1811–95), originally from Manlius, New York, was a prominent physician and abolitionist editor. On the advice of Gerrit Smith, he settled in Peterboro, New York, in 1838. During 1840 and 1841 he assisted Nathaniel P. Rogers in editing the National Anti-Slavery Standard and dissuaded New Yorkers from voting for the Liberty party in the 1840 elections. By 1841, however, Smith had convinced Jackson to edit a third-party paper, and from 1842 to 1846 Jackson edited the Liberty Press, then the Albany Patriot, for the Liberty party. He was also a founder of the Liberty League, a radical offshoot of the Liberty party, in 1847. Jackson attended both Liberty party and Free Democratic party conventions in 1852 and ultimately supported the latter. In his later years, Jackson became a physician and opened a popular hydropathy establishment in Dansville, New York. NS, 31 March 1848; FDP, 10 September, 15 October 1852; Merrill and Ruchames, Garrison Letters, 3: 110n; Friedman, Gregarious Saints, 98, 100–102; Sewell, Ballots for Freedom, 69, 76, 117; DAB, 9:547. Wm L Chaplin, and J. C. Hathaway—are quite willing to go into the next presidential election under Free Soil—and Antifugitive Slave bill leaders. I write not to condemn this policy. These are wise and honorable men, and what they propose may be for the best; but so it does not now strike me. I know not your mind concerning it. But my own conviction is that the policy is unwise, and if adopted will be followed by mischievious results. I think we ought to stand by and maintain the Liberty Party—with all its great principles and purposes. I do confide much in your judgement as to all matters touching the cause of human freedom. I therefore solicit a few lines to let me know your opinion of this matter.4Smith sent Douglass numerous public letters for publication in Frederick Douglass ’ Paper, but none on the topic of the future of the Liberty party. FDP, 4 March 1852. I can not promise that I could follow—if you should go for disbanding the Liberty party—but I will promise to stand by that party—if you say Stand!

One thing more—My dear Sir, you MUST yes; you must (if you possibly can,) attend the convention in this city on the 18 & 19th March.5The Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society issued a call for “A GRAND ANTI-SLAVERY FESTIVAL AND BAZAAR” in the city on 18 and 19 March 1852. The society also planned a “GRAND ANTI-SLAVERY CONVENTION” to coincide with the bazaar “to secure the presence of some of the ablest and most eloquent advocates of emancipation in the country.” FDP, 29 January 1852.

You quite encourage me about my chirography.6Chirography is handwriting or penmanship. My hand is a picked


up one—gathered from different sources and therefore lacks consistency. How different with your self—I should know your hand, I had almost said —although you should make but a straight mark.

Please Remember me kindly to Mrs. Smith.7Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith.

Your faithful and affectionate friend,


[P.S.] Sallie Holley lectures here this evening.8Holley delivered an abolitionist lecture in Rochester’s Corinthian Hall in mid-February 1852. FDP, 19 February 1852. She now wears the bonds that I have thrown off being a pupel of Mrs. Foster,9Abby Kelley Foster. and as I fear goes it blind. She will however see her way out, in the end.

ALS: Gerrit Smith Papers, NSyU. PLSr: Foner, Life and Writings, 2:169–70.


Douglass, Frederick




Yale University Press 2009



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