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Abner H. Francis to Frederick Douglass, October 22, 1851



FREDERICK DOUGLASS:—On my return to this place, some five weeks since, from California, I purposed saying a word to you in relation to the great commercial city of that State, San Francisco. I waived the intent, in order to make you acquainted with some of the doings of law-givers in the Territory of Oregon. I will now renew the delayed intention, but shall be more brief. The more I see of San Francisco, truly the New York of the Pacific, the more I am filled with admiration and wonder. There you will find tens of thousands congregated, drawn hither through excitement, and led on by the same spirit, to whatever acts they are called to perform. — That class of mind whose desires and feelings run after amusements, as well as the young and unmatured, whose principles are yet to be formed, may be found in numbers, to the stranger, almost incredible, at the two or three hundred licensed gambling-houses whose doors are daily thrown open, as we do our dry goods and grocery stores. Many with select bands of music, and I might say, select Spanish women to assist in dealing Monte, and other games, with several hundred thousand dollars piled on the various tables, enticing not only those who prefer this sad life to gain their subsistence, but the hardworking miner, mariner, mechanic, merchant, and day laborers—yes, the professed christian; all, all these classes, in great numbers, are led to participate, while their interesting families and friends they have left behind, are made to suffer and mourn. These places are fitted up in the most costly style, with paintings, &c., thus rendering them almost beyond the power of resistance. It is no uncommon thing to see five or six hundred congregated


in one house, reveling until twelve and one at night, after which, they resort to their still deeper dens of iniquity, which number several hundred houses, scattered simultaneously through the city—in fact, constituting more than three-fourths of the female population.

Election-day came round during my stay in that city; the preparatory scenes far outstripping anything I ever witnessed in the Atlantic States. The banners of three distinct parties were thrown out, all claiming to vindicate the true principles of Democracy, showing conclusively by their various mottoes that they studiously avoided the slavery question. Whigs, Locos, and Independents, moved in a grand procession, displaying several hundred magnificent banners. Jointly, they would have reached three miles. The Independent party claims to owe its origin from the inefficient manner the authorities have administered the laws upon culprits, and driving the people to the necessity of establishing the Vigilance Committee, whose notoriety consists in setting themselves above the law, and hanging individuals for petty offenses. They profess to desire to elect men in office who cannot be bribed, but execute justice to the full extent of the law. If this be their sole object, I heartily concur; yet there is so much political treachery practiced at the present day, that I look with little confidence to any political aspirant for office. Hon. Isaac E. Holmes, of South Carolina, was the first speaker who spoke in favor of the Independents. The sentiments he uttered, were in no wise objectionable, but the very State he represents, filled my mind with unutterable doubt. There is no question about it, but that there is a grand scheme projecting to have California divided, and a new State formed from the Southern portion, which will be converted into a slave state. I have drawn out acknowledgments from Southern men, that this was desired and intended at no far distant day. The commercial business of the great metropolis of California, for its size, has no equal. It certainly exceeds in daily transactions, the business done in the great city of the West, Buffalo. The settled number of population, about equal at least one to six I have already extended the length of this communication too far, and must bid you adieu for the present.

Yours, as formerly,


PORTLAND, Oct. 22d, 1851.


Francis, Abner H.




Abner H. Francis to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick Douglass' Paper, 11 December 1851. Describes proslavery politics of California.


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


Frederick Douglass' Paper



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Frederick Douglass' Paper