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Frederick Douglass to Gerrit Smith, April 29, 1854



Rochester[, N.Y.] 29 April 1854[.]
It is too bad that we cannot have your Speech*Gerrit Smith’s speech against passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act was delivered in Congress on 6 April 1854 and published in an expanded form in the 12 May 1854 issue of Frederick Douglass’ Paper. Smith opposed the bill because it limited suffrage to white men who held citizenship (it completely excluded blacks and immigrants), and because it recognized a national policy of “nonintervention” that would allow each state to determine whether it would legalize slavery. when people are anxious to read it. YourS, and that of Mr Benton,2Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858) served as a U.S. senator from Missouri from 1821 to 1851. Born near Hillsboro, North Carolina, Benton briefly studied at the University of North Carolina and at William and Mary College. Despite a promising legal and political career in Tennessee, Benton migrated to Missouri after service in the War of 1812. Elected to the Senate upon Missouri’s admission to the Union, he became an important Jacksonian Democrat and spokesman for western interests. His support for gradual emancipation caused Benton to lose his Senate seat in 1850. He returned to Congress as a representative from 1853 to 1855, but lost his bid for a second term after speaking out against the Kansas-Nebraska Act on 25 April 1854. Thomas Hart Benton, Thirty Years’ View; or, a History of the Working of the American Government for Thirty Years, from 1820 to 1850, 2 vols. (New York, 1854-56), 2:782; Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas H. Benton (Boston, 1899); Elbert B. Smith, Magnificent Missourian: The Life of Thomas Hart Benton (Philadelphia, 1958); William N. Chambers, Old Bullion Benton, Senator from the New West: Thomas Hart Benton, 1782-1858 (Boston, 1956); ACAB, 1:241—43; DAB, 2:210-13.’ will, I presume, be be the last on the Nebraska bill, which will be generally read. The Subject has been worn thread bare. One of the firSt privileges which I had hoped to enjoy on reaching home from Cincinnati3Frederick Douglass spoke at an antislavery convention held at Greenwood Hall in Cincinnati, Ohio, on 11-13 April, then spoke at Zion Baptist Church on Third Street in Cincinnati on 14 April 1854. FDP, 7, 28 April 1854; Douglass Papers, ser. 1, 2:xxxvi; Stacey M. Robertson, Hearts Beating for Liberty: Women Abolitionists in the Old Northwest (Chapel Hill, N.C., 2010), 104-09.
—was the reading of a full report of your Speech. You will be glad to know that my visit to Cincinnati added


conSiderably to my list of Subscribers, and made me, as well as the cause, some friends. I aimed there, to uphold our hope of inspiring doctrine of of the unconstitutionality and illegality of Slavery, but what am I in the hands of the Subtle Burliegh?4Among those attending the Cincinnati antislavery convention was the Garrisonian abolitionist Charles Calistus Burleigh (1810-78). Burleigh was born in Plainfield, Connecticut, and received his early schooling at the Plainfield Academy. While studying law, an attack he published on the Connecticut “Black Law” attracted the attention of the abolitionist Samuel J. May. Burleigh was instrumental in protecting William Lloyd Garrison from a mob in Boston in October 1835, and shortly thereafter became a regular contributor to the Liberator. In the late 1830s, Burleigh became one of the editors of the Pennsylvania Freeman, later the organ of the Eastern Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. Active in a number of reform movements, Burleigh plunged into the anti-Sabbatarian campaign after he was arrested in West Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1847 for selling antislavery literature on Sunday. In 1845 he published a pamphlet, Thoughts on the Death Penalty, condemning capital punishment. He participated in the woman suffrage conventions at Cleveland and New York in 1854 and in the American Equal Rights Association meeting in 1867. In the 1870s he joined his brother, William Henry, in the campaign for temperance reform. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, eds., History of Woman Suffrage, 6 vols. (Rochester, 1881-1922), 1:148-51; Robertson, Hearts Beating for Liberty, 104-05, 108, 113, 130; C. B. Galbreath, “Anti-Slavery Movement in Columbiana County,” Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, 30: 389-91 (October 1921); ACAB, 1:455; DAB, 3:284-85.
Wherever I have gone in the State of Ohio among the friends of freedom, I have met with but one feeling respecting you and your courSe in congress. I need not tell you what that feeling is, but it gives your Sable friend pleasure to know that it is not unfavorable, either your head or your heart, but honorable to both.
I thank you for your Several kind notes—we are all well here. Love to Mrs Smith,5Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith.
Always yours most truly


ALS: Gerrit Smith Papers, NSyU.


on Sunday. In 1845 he published a pamphlet, Thoughts on the Death Penalty, condemning capital punishment. He participated in the woman suffrage conventions at Cleveland and New York in 1854 and in the American Equal Rights


Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895


April 29, 1854


Yale University Press 2018



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