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Frederick Douglass Gerrit Smith, February 27, 1852



Rochester, [N.Y.] 27 Feb[ruary] 1852.

Gerrit Smith Esq.


Having got my paper mailed for this week, I take this my first chance to thank you for your favors of 20th & 25.1Neither of Smith’s letters to Douglass, dated 20 and 25 January 1852, has been located. The article in the ,“Democratic Recorder2Douglass seems not to have reprinted in his newspaper the article sent to him by Gerrit Smith. from the pen of that “remote cousen” is a curiosity quite interesting as shedding light on the state of mind among that class, dignified—as Southern gentlemen. The coolness & complacency of the writer are amazingly great, and show that the most appalling moral darkness may exist even, where there are, much refinement education and mental activity. He writes from the favored side of society, and should he ever be called upon to establish serfdom, there need be little fear that he would very readily be made a serf. Where is the Recorder published?

I am quite anxious to see your protest. I want it for my next edition.3Several weeks after the date of this letter, Douglass published a lengthy letter by Smith addressed to New York governor Washington Hunt, protesting Hunt’s call for state financing of African colonization efforts. FDP, 4 March 1852. The “protest” may not stay the injustice of the assembly, but it will free your soul. There are some men in this country, from whom an intelligent Judgement respecting all matters affecting the cause of Justice and Liberty


is expected. You My dear Sir, are one of these. We feel that we have a right to know what Gerrit Smith thinks. Mr. Berney has spoken. He is on record.4In 1852 James G. Birney published a pamphlet, Examination of the Decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, in the Case of Strader, Gorman and Armstrong vs. Christopher Graham, Delivered at Its December Term, 1850: Concluding with an Address to the Free Colored People, Advising Them to Remove to Liberia. In his cynical conclusion, Birney expressed extreme doubt that black people could ever be free in the United States following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. To spare themselves from discrimination and the threat of being kidnapped into slavery, he urged African Americans to abandon the United States for the black colony of Liberia. Douglass, like many other abolitionists, was not pleased with Birney’s proposal. He refused to believe that Birney would make such a “suicidal” move as to abandon abolition, and Douglass decided instead that Birney’s “fears, in this instance, got the better of his judgment.” Douglass doubted that other abolitionists would follow Birney’s change of heart. He then went on to point out improvements in the condition of black people in the northern states and predicted that racism would evaporate with slaveholding. FDP, 12 February 1852; Fladeland, James Gillespie Birney, 278–82. We want to hear from Peterboro. My remarks on Mr. B’s pamphlet—I hope will meet your approval. I have treated him as a good man—just as I believe him to be—yet much mistaken in his apprehensions and fears. I am for staying here till I see the bayonets and swords, and then if I must—I will run—but not to Liberia. I am sad at learning that Mrs. Smith5Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith. is not so well of late. Please remember me kindly to her.

Yours most truly


[P.S.] You are expected to attend the Festival on the 18th & 19th. Do come. Say you will come.

ALS: Gerrit Smith Papers, NSyU.


Douglass, Frederick




Yale University Press 2009



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