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Frederick Douglass Gerrit Smith, July 7, 1852



Rochester, [N.Y.] 7 July 1852.

Gerrit Smith Esq.


My excuse for my silence is, that you have been much engaged in matters more important than anything I had to communicate—and I have been engaged in writing a speech for the 4th July,1Douglass prepared an address for an Independence Day celebration organized by the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society at the city’s Corinthian Hall on 5 July 1852. Between 500 and 600 people attended the event, and the speech was such a success that the gathering unanimously voted to thank Douglass formally for his presentation. The printed version of this speech filled nine columns in Frederick Douglass’ Paper, and Douglass published 700 copies of it in pamphlet form. This oration became one of Douglass’s best-remembered political statements. FDP, 9 July 1852; Douglass Papers, ser. 1, 2:359–88. which has taken up much of my extra time for the last two or three weeks. You will readily think that the speech ought to be good that has required so much time. Well, some here think was a good speech—foremost among those who think so, is my friend Julia.2Julia Griffiths. She tells me it was excellent! I hope you will think well of it.

By the way I did not publish the Skeleton of your speech which was published in the Carson League,3The Carson League was a weekly temperance paper published from 1851 to 1858, originally in Syracuse and later in Albany. Its publisher was Thomas L. Carson, and its editor was James Thomas. Douglass never reprinted in Frederick Douglass’ Paper the report of Smith’s speech in the Carson League. Dwight H. Bruce, ed., Onondaga’s Centennial, 2 vols. (Boston, 1896), 1:563–70. because I did not think it well to bring that “SKELETON” before my readers. I desire to present the giant to my readers in the fulness of health and strength. Please favor me with a copy of the speech as soon as it is got ready. I will attend to Sophia Littles Book4Sophia Little (1799–c. 1870), an author and poet from Rhode Island, was best known for her sensationalist novels dealing with abolition and temperance. Her 1852 novel, Thrice through the Furnace: A Tale of the Times of the Iron Hoof, attacked the sexual exploitation of female slaves, the enslavement of mulatto children, and the Fugitive Slave Law. FDP, 16 July 1852; Sophia Little, Thrice through the Furnace: A Tale of the Times of the Iron Hoof (Pawtucket, R.I., 1852); Lina Mainiero and Langdon Lynne Faust, American Women Writers: A Critical Guide from Colonial Times to the Present, 5 vols. (New York, 1981), 3:16–17. soon. I have secured the aid of your friend Wm. Jay Esq.5The son of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay, William Jay (1789–1858) attended Yale University and practiced law in Albany, New York. In 1818 he accepted an appointment as a New York circuit judge in Westchester County and held that post for the next quarter-century. Jay served as a president of the American Peace Society and was a founding member of the American Bible Society. An advocate of immediate emancipation, in 1835 Jay wrote a pamphlet condemning colonization. Other writings criticized the proslavery nature of the Protestant Episcopal church, of which he was a member, and railed against those who supported gradual emancipation. Jay helped establish the New York Anti-Slavery Society and spoke frequently at abolitionist meetings. On 12 May 1859, Douglass delivered a eulogy for Jay at a well-attended public meeting in New York City. Jay’s son, John, later assisted Douglass in republishing it in pamphlet form. Frederick Douglass, Eulogy of the Late Hon. Wm. Jay, By Frederick Douglass, Delivered on the Invitation of the Colored Citizens of New York City, In Shiloh Presbyterian Church (Rochester, 1859); FDP, 20 May 1859; Douglass Papers, ser. 1, 3:249–76; NCAB, 8:74; DAB, 10:11–12. He writes over the Signature A. B.6The article, “The New York Journal of Commerce,” appeared in Frederick Douglass’ Paper on 10 June 1852, signed “A. B.” His articles will help to raise the character of my paper. You may have noticed his biting strictures which appeared several weeks ago on the Journal of Commerce.7Arthur Tappan began the Journal of Commerce as an antislavery and business periodical in September 1827. He soon grew tired of managing the paper, and the Journal quickly passed through the hands of Lewis Tappan and then Horace Bushnell, until David Hale and Gerard Hallock took over publication in 1828. Under Hale and Hallock, the Journal became renowned for innovative news-gathering techniques, reliable business news, and liberal editorials. In regard to antislavery sentiments, Hale and Hallock proved more conservative than the Journal’s original owners, for which William Jay, under the pseudonym “A. B.,” criticized them in a 10 June 1852 editorial in Frederick Douglass’ Paper. Jay believed that the editors’ devotion to the cotton industry had undermined their professed morality, and he admonished them for suppressing the discussion of antislavery ideas and for defending the shooting of a fugitive slave by a slave catcher. Jay’s criticism had little effect. After opposing any sentiment that would threaten the Union, the Journal endorsed the Southern Aid Society in 1860. FDP, 10 June 1852; Hudson, Journalism in the United States, 141, 180, 189, 194, 362–77, 425.

So you have again been rob[b]ed of two thousand dollars—my heartaches—when I think of the vast sums—which you have during the last year past—thrown away. I say thrown away—for every cent of it might have been saved, had Chaplin8William L. Chaplin. acted like a man.

I am going to spend a day shortly with Wm. R. Smith9William R. Smith (1810–?), a prominent Quaker farmer from Macedon, New York, was a member of the Liberty party and an associate of Gerrit Smith. In August 1850 he traveled to Maryland and Washington, D.C., to negotiate bail for William Chaplin. He may also have aided other fugitives on the Underground Railroad and had a young mulatto woman from Maryland living in his household in 1850. In 1852 he was the Liberty party nominee for governor of New York. 1850 U.S. Census, New York, Wayne County, Macedon, 64; Harlow, Gerrit Smith, 191, 292–93. with a view to aid him in drawing up a statement of the facts in the case.


Julia Griffiths desires her best regards.

I am Dear Sir Your true and grateful Friend


ALS: Gerrit Smith Papers, NSyU.



Douglass, Frederick




Yale University Press 2009



Publication Status