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Frederick Douglass Gerrit Smith, August 14, 1855



Rochester[, N.Y.] 14 Aug[ust] 1855[.] Hon: GERRIT SMITH. My DEAR FRIEND: It would have been quite compenSation enough to know that the dedication of my Book1Dedicated to Gerrit Smith, Douglass’s My Bondage and My Freedom, released in August 1855, tells the story of Douglass’s life as a slave, his escape, his first fourteen years as an abolitionist, his manumission, and his life a freeman, including his ventures in the printing business. The autobiography sold five thousand copies in the first two days of its release, at $1.25 per copy, and sold one thousand in Syracuse, New York, alone. The book required second and third printings in 1856 and 1857, and by the time of the release of the German edition in 1860, some twenty thousand copies had been sold. Despite the book’s limited initial circulation, it met with rave reviews and rivaled the popularity of his autobiographical Narrative. Douglass Papers, ser. 2, 2:xxx-xxxi. afforded you pleasure. That dedication was inSerted not to place you under obligations, nor to discharge my obligation to you, but rather to couple my poor name with a name I love and honor, and have it go down on the tide of time with the advantage of that name. Nevertheless, I gratefully accept your draft for fifty dollars—I do not know, just yet, what use I Shall make of it. I am ever disposed to prefer the useful to the ornamental, and shall no doubt find some useful purpose to which I may properly devote the money—


My family are well and join me in kind regards to you and yours. I leave home tomorrow on a four weeks Campagn thorugh Niagara and Orleans Counties.2Douglass toured central New York from 15 to 25 August 1855 in the company of William J. Watkins. After touring alone for two weeks, he attended the State Convention of Colored Men at Troy, New York, on 4-6 September 1855. FDP, August 1855; Douglass Papers, ser. 3, 3:xxii-xxiii. I shall try to uphold the great principles of freedom as laid down by yourSelf, and Mr Goodell3William Goodell. at the radical abolition Convention. Yours Most truly


ALS: Gerrit Smith Papers, NSyU.


Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895


August 14, 1855


Yale University Press 2018



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