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Frederick Douglass Gerrit Smith, March 24, 1852



Rochester, [N.Y.] 24 March 1852.

Gerrit Smith Esq.


I thank you warmly, for attending our Festival. Your visit to Rochester has done good both to the cause of temperance1On the evening of 17 March 1852, the day before the official start of the Rochester antislavery festival, Gerrit Smith delivered a speech in Corinthian Hall urging New Yorkers to endorse their own version of Maine’s prohibition law. FDP, 25 March 1852. and to Antislavery. The festival was highly successful and has left a good impression. The receipts amount to more than four hundred dollars2The Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society reported net proceeds for the festival of $407.71, of which $233 was donated to Frederick Douglass. FDP, 1 April 1852.—and I believe, that the expenses do not exceed one hundred dollars. You may well suppose, that Julia Griffiths, is highly pleased with the result.

I regret that you could not have remained to witness to the scene which occurred the morning you left here for home. The constitution of the "New York Anti-Slavery Society," drawn up by our friend Goodell3The Rochester convention appointed a ten-member committee to draft the constitution for the proposed New York State Anti-Slavery Society. Douglass served on that committee, but informed readers of the newspaper that William Goodell had done the principal work in preparing the constitution. FDP, 25 March, 1 April 1852. was submitted at ten oclock that morning, to a large meeting—and before a single article of that constitution could be adopted the indefatigable Stephen,4The official proceedings of the Rochester convention record Stephen S. Foster as presenting a resolution that the newly formed New York State Anti-Slavery Society affiliate With the Garrisonian-controlled American Anti-Slavery Society. Rochester abolitionist Henry Bush seconded the motion, but the proceedings record its defeat with only one affirmative vote. FDP, 25 March, 1 April 1852. was on his legs with a motion and speech in favor of making the Society auxiliary to the American Antislavery Society,—telling us that he had come to test us—and to compel us to show cause for not uniting with the American Society &c.5The official report of the convention’s proceedings mentions Stephen S. Foster as a participant in the debate over the affiliation of the New York State Anti-Slavery Society with the American Anti-Slavery Society. In his own editorial coverage of the convention, Douglass did not acknowledge Foster’s presence. FDP, 25 March, 1 April 1852. The next objection to the Constitution by Mr. Foster was the assertion of the impossibility of Legalizing Slavery. I need not tell you that these objections were all overcome. The Constitution was adopted very heartily and almost unanimously. In the account which I have given of the convention, in my paper, I have thought proper to leave out all mention of


the Fosters. I am persuaded that there is a desire to provoke me into a controversy with them. They accuse me now, openly, of having sold myself to one Gerrit Smith Esq. and to have changed my views—more by your in consequence of your purse than your arguments! These things are disagreeable but they do not move me. A consciousness of my own rectitude affords me abundant repose and enables me heartily to despise these assaults.

I wait for their accusations to appear in some of their papers.6Giles B. Stebbins, not Abby Kelley or Stephen S. Foster, launched the attack on the founding of the Rochester-based New York State Anti-Slavery Society in a hostile letter, published in the National Anti-Slavery Standard. Douglass replied in an editorial on 22 April 1852, to which Stebbins responded directly on 26 April 1852 in a letter that appears in this volume. NASS, 15 April 1852; FDP, 22, 29 April 1852. I may then make a reply. One handle they have against me is, that I told you of the change in my views before I told the public. This they think is proof positive of corruption.

But I will pester you no longer with these slanders. I am content to bide my time.

In haste Most truly Yours—


ALS: Gerrit Smith Papers, NSyU. PLSr: Foner, Life and Writings, 2:174.


Douglass, Frederick (1818–1895)




Yale University Press 2009



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