FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO CHARLES SUMNER
Rochester[, N.Y.] 27 February 1854.
Hon. CHAS. SUMNER,
My DEAR SIR:—
All the friends of freedom, in every State, and of every color, may claim you, just now, as their representative. As one of your Sable conStituents—My dear Sir, I deSire to thank you, for your noble SpeechCharles Sumner addressed the U.S. Senate on 21 February 1854. His speech, against the repeal of the Missouri Compromise by the proposed Kansas-Nebraska Act, was reprinted in Frederick Douglass’ Paper under the column heading “The Landmark of Freedom.” FDP, 10 March 1854. for freedom, and for your country, which I have now read twice over. When Messrs. Chase,Salmon Portland Chase (1808-73) served as a U.S. senator, cabinet officer, and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He taught school briefly in Washington, D.C., before settling in Cincinnati and beginning a legal career. There he defended a number of fugitive slaves and acted as legal counsel for the abolitionist James G. Birney. Initially a Whig, Chase joined the Liberty party in 1840, and presided at the Buffalo Convention of the Free Soil party in 1848. A coalition of Free Soilers and Democrats in the Ohio legislature sent Chase to the U.S. Senate in 1849, where he remained until 1854. He strongly opposed the Compromise of 1850 and favored the restriction of slavery by federal law. In the wake of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Chase joined the Republican party and won the governorship of Ohio in 1855. After resuming his U.S. Senate seat in 1861, he resigned to become Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of the treasury. Closely aligned with radical Republicans in Congress, Chase became the focus of opposition to Lincoln within the Republican party. Although he resigned from his cabinet post and challenged Lincoln for the 1864 presidential nomination, the latter appointed him chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Throughout his political career, Chase was a strong proponent of black suffrage and the radical program of Reconstruction. In 1868, Chase again sought the Democratic presidential nomination as a Democrat, but attracted little support. Frederick J. Blue, Salmon P. Chase: A Life in Politics (Kent, Ohio, 1987); James Brewer Stewart, Joshua R. Giddings and the Tactics of Radical Politics (Cleveland, 1970), 116-18, 153-54; Richard H. Sewell, Ballots for Freedom: Antislavery Politics in the United States, 1837-1860 (New York, 1976), 90; Reinhard H. Luthin, “Salmon P. Chase’s Political Career before the Civil War,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 29:517-40 (March 1943); DAB,4:27-34. Wade,The political abolitionist Edward Wade (1802-66) was born in rural Massachusetts and moved to Andover, Ohio, in 1821 with his family. He trained for the law with the nationally prominent Ohio attorney Elisha Whittlesey, who practiced alongside Edward’s more famous brother, Benjamin. Despite receiving little formal education, both Edward and Benjamin went on to practice law in Jefferson, Ohio, and had respectable political careers. In 1842, Edward joined the Liberty party and later the Free Soil party, while Benjamin remained a Whig until they both joined the Republican party at its formation in 1854. Edward served in the House in 1853 as a Free Soiler and then as a Republican until 1861, when he retired because of poor health and returned to his law practice in Cleveland. Frederick J. Blue, No Taint of Compromise: Crusaders in Antislavery Politics (Baton Rouge, La., 2005), xiv, 11, 213-14; BDUSC (online). and Seward,William H. Seward. had Spoken, I could not See, what remained for you to Say. The reSult Shows that the world is larger than it looks to be from the little valley where I live. If I thought you were, or could be, dissatisfied with your Speech, I Should have to conSider you a hard MaSter—and a very unreasonable man.
It is Sad to think that after all the efforts of your Spartan band,Douglass compares the small group of antislavery congressmen who unsuccessfully tried to block passage of the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act to the Spartans’ attempt at Thermopylae to delay the Persian invasion of Greece. Blue, Free Soilers, 280-83. this wicked measure will pass—A victory now for freedom, would be the turning point—in freedom’s favour—But “God dwells in eternity”, and it may be time enough yet—Heaven PreServe you—and Strengthen you.
Yours, Most truly, and gratefully,
ALS: Charles Sumner Papers, MH-H.