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Frederick Douglass Gerrit Smith, October 8, 1852



Ithaca, [N.Y.] 8 Oct[ober] 1852.

Gerrit Smith Esq.


You may rely upon my presence at Peterboro’ on the twentieth,1Douglass spent the month of October campaigning for Smith’s election to Congress as an independent candidate. Douglass did not go to Peterboro, New York, on 20 October 1852. Instead he campaigned for Smith at Fenner, New York, for reasons that he did not fully explain. Douglass’s letter to Smith, dated 21 October 1852, reporting his activities appears in this volume. then and there, to commence my labors in your District. May I hope that you will map out my work for me? I am speaking twice a day in this county and am having fine meetings—large and spirited.2For the week of 8 October, Donglass’s speaking itinerary included Danby Village on 8 October; Newfield Village on 9 October; Hector Burdett on the morning of 12 October; Meckurbury in evening of 12 October; Ulysses, Johns, and Goodwin’s Falls on 13 October; and Trumansburgh and Ithaca on 14 October. FDP, 8 October 1852. I find in Phillip C. Schyler3Douglass reported staying at the home of Philip Church Schuyler (1805–72) in Ithaca, New York, the preceding July. He praised Schuyler as “not merely an abolitionist at the ballot box, but in all relations to life.” In 1855 Schuyler moved to Kansas and became active in the territory’s free state movement. He also founded the community of Burlingame in Osage County, Kansas. FDP, 30 July 1852, 22 September 1854, 27 July 1855; Harlow, Gerrit Smith, 344.—an active and faithful friends—one too, who loves Gerrit Smith and the great principles with which Gerrit Smith is associated.

That was a magnificent and glorious celebration at Syracuse.4An estimated 5,000 people attended the Syracuse celebration in honor of the first anniversary of the rescue of William “Jerry” McHenry, a black cooper arrested under the Fugitive Slave Law. Speakers for the event included Douglass, Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Gerrit Smith, and Lucy Stone. FDP, 9 October 1851, 1, 8 October 1852; Mabee, Black Freedom, 307–08. Boston abolition, that allowed Sims to be dragged into slavery,5The Boston case of alleged fugitive slave Thomas Sims was one of the most publicized challenges to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. In early April 1851 an agent working for Georgia slaveholder James Potter, accompanied by a Boston police officer, attempted to arrest Sims on the charge of being a fugitive slave. Sims resisted arrest and in the process slightly wounded the police officer before being subdued and placed in police custody. On the morning of the hearing before a local judge, abolitionists staged a protest outside the State House in Boston and in various parts of the city. Prominent Boston attorneys such as Charles Sumner, Richard H. Dana, Jr., and Samuel E. Sewall argued on behalf of Sims and against the legality of his arrest. On 11 April 1851 Judge Levi Woodbury ordered that the alleged fugitive be remanded to the custody of U.S. marshals. Francis Tukey, the Boston area federal fugitive slave commissioner, heard the case, and a committee of the Massachusetts Senate investigated the conduct of all involved. Found to be the fugitive slave of Potter, Sims departed Boston under guard the next day. Abolitionists condemned the action of state officials and federal marshals, continuing for more than a year following Sims’s return south to uphold the case as an example of judicial tragedy and a failure of the US. justice system. Washington (D.C.) National Era, 10, 17 April 1851; FDP, 19, 26 February, 6 August 1852; Horton and Horton, In Hope of Liberty, 255. did seem to me less efficient than Syracuse abolition, that rescued Jerry, though it might be considered egotistical to say so!

I doubt not that my friend Miss Griffiths had a good visit at Peterboro’6In a 6 October 1852 letter to British journalist Mary Howitt, Julia Griffiths wrote, “Here I am once again in Peterboro—dear, happy Peterboro—actually seated in the study chair of my friend—the world’s friend—Gerrit Smith.” FDP, 15 October 1852.—and left you with her strength renewed.

Yours Always for freedom and humanity


ALS: Gerrit Smith Papers, NSyU.



Douglass, Frederick (1818–1895)


October 8, 1852


Yale University Press 2009



Publication Status