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C. M. to Frederick Douglass, April 16, 1851


Northampton, April 16, 1851.
Frederick Douglass

Dear Sir: -
I am sorry to see that your good cause seems to have lost some ground since that "††† Fugitive Slave Law" has been put into practice. (In Germany, folks used to make three crosses in speaking of the Devil, which they call "God help us from it.") A law in a Democratic Republic is, and ought to be, a powerful weapon; for if it were not, we would naturally break each other's necks, thinking we had a right to do so. The really bad thing, if we consider the matter coolly, is not the law. It is the miserable selfishness and iniquity, the want of respect for God's laws, and for the rights and welfare of our fellow-creatures, which predominates in this country, and which has dictated that law, and thereby added a new stain on the Constitution of a great country, which ought to be not only an asylum for fugitives from European tyranny, but for every oppressed human being. The existence of slavery and that ††† law, prove that there are more petty tyrants in this "blessed land of liberty" than in Europe and Asia together. However, there is no other way to fight the struggle out, than that of gaining the opinion of the majority, when slavery will fall of itself; for it is, like all other iniquitous things, a pyramid reverted, which must tumble over when the million of supports, created by selfishness, brutality and vice, that keep it up, begin to break. Most men, especially the priestcratt of slaveholders, are so constituted that they would sooner believe black to be white, than to admit to be wrong, when their interest requires them to be right. And so long as people act upon this principle, it will be difficult to conquer slavery, although you may show them a thousand times that they are no Christians, but hypocrites and liars. The best way, then, to gain the opinion of the majority, is to make the majority better, and this lies greatly in the hands of the clergy and teachers of youth. Let us see how they perform their holy duty. In the meantime, let us find a consolation in thinking that slavery is far from making those happy who support it. It is a sin that corrodes its own supports by brutalizing them and teaching them vices. Let me mention one example, which I had an opportunity to observe closely:
I know a military officer who keeps an office in New York, and gets $5,000 a year


from government for doing nothing, and his son receives $600 for assisting him in this praiseworthy employment. Their whole occupation (I have seen no others with them for months) is drinking brandy. A clerk, whom they give $300 a year, does all their work. He plays the English Lord, priding himself upon being a descendant of Lord Such-a-one, and displaying greater luxury than his income seems to allow him, and therefore cheating his physicians, nay, even his servants, of their well-earned fees and wages, to make up the deficiency. In learning, he does not much honor to West Point. I have heard him say that "iron was heavier than lead," (probably because he found out that a cannon ball was heavier than a musket bullet;) but he knows how to promote his interest, which his office seems to give him a good opportunity to take care of. He is of course a great advocate of slavery, and hates the New York Tribune; and the light "trash" and North Star are entirely out of the question. He once told me he had a slave in Louisiana, whom he generously allowed to work for himself, on condition that he should pay him $13 per month, and that the fellow, being a clever mechanic, "lived like a prince." Now I [illegible] the happiness of that man. He had [illegible] boy, about ten years old, whom he loved very much, and whom he brought up in principles similar to his own. One day he induced the boy to climb up a kind of balcony, to get switches from a tree to whip his black cook. The boy fell, broke his arm in two places, was badly treated, and died of lock-jaw. His only daughter, a handsome and amiable child, was burnt to death by her clothes taking fire, her black nurse having left her alone in a room. His two sons are drunkards like himself. He broke one of his fingers by knocking down a poor soldier under his command. His wife, after years of intense suffering, died of a cancer; and he himself has frequent attacks of delirium tremens, which will sooner or later close his glorious career. Do you wish to know his name?
Constantly praying for the success of the cause of humanity, and wishing that true Christian religion may enlighten the rulers of this asylum for victims of European tyranny, that it may soon become a place of refuge for all the oppressed, whether black or white, I remain truly yours,
C. M.


M., C.




C. M. to Frederick Douglass. PLIr: NS, 24 April 1851. Condemns Fugitive Slave Law.


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


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