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A Friend to Frederick Douglass, July 17, 1852


Rochester, July 17th., 1852.

Dear Douglass:—In your paper of July 1st, brief editorial comments are made upon the letter of A Friend. From this criticism it becomes evident, either that the writer has no logic, at least that none was put in the article under review, or else, that Mr. Douglass quite failed to comprehend it. He says, "the logic of A Friend amounts to this: the Liberty Party is a temperance party; there-fore it is inconsistent for its members to join temperance societies. The Liberty Party is an anti-slavery society; therefore it is inconsistent for its members to act with an anti-
slavery society."

If Mr. Douglass had put the above syllogisms into the following form, he would have hit the nail of A Friend's logic more firmly upon the head:

The Liberty Party is an all-political reform party; therefore it is inconsistent for its members to join a political temperance soci-ety, which advocates nothing but temperance reform; which, by its relation to popular politics, endorses all other political wrongs. The Liberty Party is an all-political wrong party; therefore it is inconsistent for its members to join a political anti-slavery soci-ety, which advocates nothing but anti-slavery reform; and which, by its relation to popular politics, endorses all other political wrongs. There is the vital essence of the two former letters, and also of the present number, all summed up in one homeopathic pellet; and no new school doctor ever contended more zealously for a concentration of medicinal properties in his infinitesimal doses, than does the writer, that the perfection of Liberty Party logic is found in the above propo-sitions. We had not, however, in our former articles, quite arrived at this final conclusion, except by way of inference. The logic, so far as it had progressed, was like this: The Liberty Party is a political reform society; therefore its members cannot belong also to a political annihilation society; therefore the New York State Anti-Slavery Society, so far as it deals with pro-slavery at all, must be a political reform society. It must, then, be such, either openly or avowedly, or else it is so covertly and unacknowledgedly, in fact if not in appearance. The Liberty Party is an outspoken political reform society, contend-ing that righteous political action is neces-sary to the overthrow of slavery, which is supported by wrong political action; con-tending that righteous moral action is a ne-cessary element of right political action; and that right moral action in a political direc-tion, is part and parcel of right political ac-tion, and inseparable from it. But to be engaged in a political reform which is not openly and avowedly such, but which is conducted under the cover of a


simple, moral movement, is seeming to admit that right political action is not necessary to the overthrow of slavery; that this work may be better accomplished by a merely moral movement; and that right moral action, even in a political direction, may be divorced from right political action, and carried forward separately from it; thus, apparently sub-scribing to the uselessness of political ac-tion, and [confirming] the world in its theory, that such action is so entirely and hopelessly corrupt, that simple, moral efforts, even in a political direction, cannot be effectually prosecuted in connection with it; and thus, it is aiding and abetting the corruption and degradation of politics more effectually than any open advocate for the inherent worth-lessness of politics possibly can do; there-fore, no one who is laboring to reform politics, and certainly no one, who, like the Liberty Party, demands an "immediate and every-way righteous" political action, can consistentlyco-operate with the New York State Anti-Slavery Society in so far as it is a political reform movement and yet is not such acknowledgedly and apparently.

Pray, where is the break in this chain which seems to be somewhat logical, and somewhat firmly connected? Yet, if this is so, Frederick Douglass "ought to," with the clearness of his mental vision, see that it is no more consistent for a Liberty Party man to co-operate with the the New York State Anti-Slavery Society," in so far as it is a political reform society; and yet it is not such obvi-ously and acknowledgely, "than it would be for him to (seem to) unite in prayer" for the enslavement of a black man, in a pro-slavery church. It is assumed that the State Society is not really rejecting political efforts, only seeming to do so. This seeming is the very thing condemned. Where it is practiced by those who openly demand a pure and right-eous political action, and contend that this is practicable, it seems to give the lie to their profession, and to make a mockery of their demand, by showing, or seeming to show, that they themselves were obliged to disso-ciate their efforts from politics, in order to attack successfully even so much of slavery as is found rooted and grounded in the ex-clusive domain of politics. Surely this is not well! But the State Society is not wholly a political organization. It has other essential elements. The editor apparently overlooked what we freely conceded, viz: that a member of the Liberty Party may co-operate consistently with this society so far as it is not a political reform movement; but I cannot conceive how one can co-operate with a merely temperance political party, or a merely anti-slavery political party, and still consistently maintain the great Liberty Party principle which condemns all political wrongs.

Is there really no difference between the


State Society and the Liberty Party, except that "the former is wholly devoted to the one purpose of abolishing slavery, and the latter embraces that and other objects?" So far as that society is a political movement, so I think also. But this has been distinctly and repeatedly denied by members of that society, who have contended that it was not designed to be at all a political movement—For the benefit of such, my last letter was written. For the benefit of those who hold with us, that the difference lies in the num-ber of objects embraced, will be written the remainder of the present article. And pray friend Douglass, do not fancy that I am at last learning to grumble from the mere love of it. Would to God there were no cause for these long, and I fear very unwelcome communications, both to yourself and read-ers; but within a few months, having con-versed with members of the "Righteous Civil Government party," from several dif-ferent states, I have too often found them wa-vering between an every-way right polit-ical action, and partially right or anti slavery political action. Depend upon it we are coming to a crisis which is likely to try Liberty Party men's souls, even more than the Buffalo Platform had the ability to do! That was the first testing of the army, but the severest test is not yet; and though we want none to remain, who are not with us from principle, yet there are motives for apostatizing now being urged, which, if it were possible, would deceive the very elect.

But my letter is nearly long enough to be brought to a close, without scarcely touching upon the points designed for the present number. I must therefore touch upon them very briefly, and leave them after; trusting that a word to the wise will be sufficient.

If regarded in the light of a political movement, the State Society certainly en-dorses principles wholly at variance with the Righteous Civil Government principles, "No union with political sin." Its constitution declares, indeed, that "it is morally wrong to vote for slaveholders or their apologists, or for those who will not use their powers for the abolition of slavery," and it gives the black man all the "rights, privileges, and eligibilities" of the white; but it is entirely silent about other sins, which the Liberty Party disfellowships. What is this but a compromise between the principle which de-mands impartial justice towards all the citi-zens of the government, and the unprinciple which practices justice towards all classes, but particularly towards the colored man and the slave; both parties consenting to agree in the demand that the slave and the black man shall have the civil rights accorded to the freeman and the white, the one giving up its demand for absolute and impartial justice, and the other conceding its practice of op-pressing the colored man and the slave. But the Liberty Party professses one eternal fun-damental creed, which may all be summed up in one word, righteousness. If one iota of that creed is given up, unrighteousness is admitted into it. They have taken away its very life—its soul. It would be a lifeless and useless course, but that they have in-fused into it another and an evil spirit, the spirit which animates the popular political creeds, the spirit of partial justice, and of impartial justice.


We believe civil government is a necessity growing out of the nature and relations of man, and, therefore, that it is as much of God as any other in the universe. But God has nothing to do with unrighteousness! A gov-ernment administered upon its principles, is in the hands of the arch friend, rather than the just God.

For a good man to enlist under any other banner than that of impartial justice, or righteousness is by no means bettering, though it is reversing the old practice, and stealing the livery of the devil to serve heaven in.—Pity to the cause which is obliged to resort to such a device! Its recruits must have mistaken the character of the recruiting offi-cers, and the king for whom they enlist.—Liberty Party men must surely find the cov-ering of their professed principles wide enough in that they can wrap themselves in it, and woven, too, without seam, so that they need have no occasion to put on the tat-tered shrouds of the Great [Deceiver?]. There is no merely anti slavery political movement in existence that even makes pretences to
have erected the standard of a Righteous Civil Government. There is none which even makes the show of a demand for any-thing better than partial justice, and that, too at the expense of a compromise of righteous-ness within justice. Then no Liberty Party man can act consistently with such a party.

Suppose there is a reform church existing in some country where intemperance, sla-very, and poligamy are tolerated in the pop-ular churches. This reform body is strictly and openly opposed to all these sins. There is an article in the creed, saying, We believe it morally wrong to support religious teach-ers, or to continue in Christian fellowship with religious bodies who apologize for in-temperance, slaveholding, or poligamy, or who neglect to bear testimony against them. After having intelligently and conscientiously taking this bold stand and still believing it to be the ultimate and only tenable ground, could any one justify these men in becoming members of a new church, which, though strongly condemning and disfellowshipping poligamy, should still be entirely silent upon the questions of slavery and intemperance, allowing its members, if they chose to deal freely in rum and slaves, and to support re-ligious teachers who were drunkards and slaveholders? Certainly not. Judged by the standard of their first position, such a course would be glaringly immoral.

If they could unite with a church which is silent upon the subjects of intemperance and slavery, they could, for the same reason, go back again to the old churches, which are silent, also, in regard to poligamy. If they could sacrifice principle to expediency in one case, no matter how plausible might be the pretext for doing so, they could in all cases, where, to the short-sighted vision, good re-sults would seem likely to follow.

No Liberty Party man would for a mo-ment admit their right to do this, yet their position in the case supposed so exactly par-allel to that of a member of such party, who steps down from the righteous civil govern-ment platform, upon a merely anti-slavery platform. By his position he is made to en-dorse every other crime of which the govern-


ment is guilty, except the one against which he protests. He stands upon a political platform of his own erecting—has adopted a political creed of his own devising, and this creed must be regarded either as containing the whole essential elements of his political faith, or else, as comprehending the distin-guishing feature between his political senti-ments, and those of the common political par-ties. But anti-slavery, though an essential element, is far from including all essential elements of the Liberty Party creed; there-fore, it must be regarded as containing no more than the distinguishing feature of the anti-slavery man's views; and, therefore, he must be supposed to endorse the main prin-ciples of either one or the other of the two great parties. These principles are in direct and acknowledged antagonism to the motto, All Rights for All. How, then, can the ad-vocate for a righteous civil government, thus strike hands with political sin?



A Friend (Pseudonym)




A Friend to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick Douglass' Papers, 30 July 1852. Questions consistency of Liberty party ideology.


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