Skip to main content

Calvin Fairbank to Frederick Douglass, March 31, 1851


Letter from Calvin Fairbank.
Boliver, N. Y., March 31st, 1851.
Dear Douglass:ー
I can well exclaim, "O for a lodge in some vast wilderness!
Some boundless contiguity of shade!
My ear is pained, my soul is sick with
Every day's report of wrong and outrage."
Standing as I do, between New England and Ohio, though I see a mighty odds between the two, yet there is much of every day that must give pain to every christian heart, and cause it, sickened, to turn away from such republicanism, such somerset religion as ours.
I hear of a fugitive taken here and there, on all sides of me; and I hear people say, "O, well I s'pose its all right, or it would not be allowed." What cold consolation to the slave, that! Fugitives from all parts of the country are selling out, and going to Canada. Going to Canada! God bless that lion! May her neck grow thick with mane for the slave to settle in, for he found no rest in the eagle's nest. So he nestles in the mane of the lion.
At the Smith Settlement on the Oswego, commonly known as Oswego, there is quite a number of families living in a respectable mannerーclearing up farms, and living as other industrious people live. There was not, and there is not at this time, any danger to any of them, for I think, that if a miscreant should come on such an errand, the wax in his ears would get one warming before he left.
But then people felt unsafe. Honest, christian men who, when they worship "under their own vine and fig tree with none to molest or make them afraid," are obliged to be armed with knives and pistols, were afraid, and have sold out their right to the soil in the United States, and are now on their way to Canada.
On Friday last, I was noticing a good looking waggon coming with one man rather dark. It was a new thing in this place for a white gentlemen to welcome people of color to his table. I met them as they stopped, and learned that they were on their way to visit their friends on the Oswego.
They were Mr. Hough and a part of his family. I invited them in. They accepted the invitation. Dinner was prepared, and we partook. Several of the neighbors sent over to know if these people were fleeing from slavery. Mr. H. is a comfortable farmer, just as too many colored people are not. They went to take their last visit with those unfortunate fugitives, who, after clearing off little farms, and establishing themselves otherwise comfortably, must leave all but a mere pittance, and go in search of new homes in the North. They are gone, the fugitive act cannot reach them there. I love the land that protects them. They are gone from this free country.
See the honest, the free, and brave,

The denizen of the soil:

He wrought, and knew no slave,

Inured to constant toil.

He swept away the tree,

By the steady manlike stroke,

He labored, and was free;

And then the chimney's smoke

Marked where the cottage stood,

While the faithful husband's arm

Wrang music from the wood,

The wifeーwas there no charm?

She watched the returning morn

With more than a watchman's zeal;

The wheat and the blade of corn,

She grew for the winter's meal:

The corn's last ear was hanging,

And the ebony darling saw,

While the ebony father was singing,

These words, "NO HIGHER LAW!"

Herschel all was still and fearful!

The night was wet and drearー

The mother's eye was tearful,

But the father's arm was near.

Rouse up, ye men, and hast ye!

For the bloodhound's on your track,

Lest the eagle's tallon waste ye,

And the Christian send us back.

They're gone! the fields are lonely,

The Marshal calls the swain,

They left not houses onlyー

They nestle in the lion's mane.

Yours in behalf of the slave,
Calvin Fairbank.


Fairbank, Calvin




Calvin Fairbank to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: NS, 10 April 1851. Regrets blacks’ fleeing to Canada as result of Fugitive Slave Law.


This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


North Star



Publication Status



North Star