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Charles W. Stuart to Frederick Douglass, March 10, 1856


Lora, C[anada] W[est.] 10 March 1856.
I thank you for your publication of Gerrit Smith’s letter to Governor Chase,1Salmon P. Chase in your 426th whole number.2Printed in the 22 February 1856 issue of Frederick Douglass’ Paper (whole no. 416), Gerrit Smith’s letter to Governor Salmon P. Chase of Ohio criticizes the latter’s endorsement of the Republican party and its cautious antislavery stand. What a blessing to his country—what an honor to human nature is such a man! But there are thousands and tens of thousands in the United States, more or less like him; and as long as they remain free to feel, and to write, and to act as he does, there is yet hope for your country, fearful as is its danger; crimsoned as it is with the blood of its guiltless poor; and loathsome as is its outrageous hypocrisy, ecclesiastical and civil! May Gerrit Smith’s exposition, as luminous and unanswerable as it is considerate and kind, of the striking error of minds so characteristically noble and accomplished as Chase’s and Seward’s, &c., be blessed to their perception and acknowledgment, that the clear transgression of any of God’s fundamental laws, never can be rightfuly legalized; and, of course, that the United States system of Slavery, being the sum of all villainies, can, not only have no rightfully lawful existence; but is properly and emphatically only fit for utter abhorrence, and for immediate and thorough abolition.
Yet amid all the excellencies of his glorious mind, bright in intellect, fraught with knowledge, Christian in heart, heroic in will, eloquent in utterance, person and gesture as he is, Gerrit Smith seems to me to forget himself, when he says, “all admit, that Cuba should belong to us; and all should be able to see, that Mexico must be miserable, until she becomes a part of us.”3Smith’s letter to Chase included an attack on what he regarded as the Republican party’s apathy toward slavery, attributing it to the party’s stance on the potential annexation of Cuba and Mexico. According to Smith, Northerners and Southerners believed it would benefit all three nations to bring Cuba and Mexico into the Union. Although opposed to the expansion of the “slave power,” the North was willing to allow slavery to continue “where it exists” rather than eliminate it altogether. Smith argued that this stance was hypocritical and would not gain the Republican party support among abolitionists. FDP, 22 February 1856.
For my part, I cannot imagine by what law, deserving the name of law, Cuba should belong to the United States; or, that Mexico, free as she is from Slavery, must be miserable, until she becomes a member of a slaveholding nation.
But even if the United States were as free as they pretend to be, I cannot see, by what right, Cuba ought to be hers, or that she would have any right to annex Mexico by aggression.
Does might make right! Great Britain and France, have a better right than the United States, to attack and conquer Cuba for themselves; or to defend it from the aggressions of others.
Does proximity constitute right! Then is every powerful State in the neighborhood of a weaker, entitled to conquer or annex it: and to carry this principle out (a thoroughly slaveholding and tyrannical principle)—


every strong man would have a right to take his weaker neighbor into his charge, to govern him as he thought best.
Nations and Individuals, have nothing like wisdom equity, and benevolence enough, to act sanely and honestly on such principles.
Let me add a few testimonies of my own judgment in relation to yourself. Your life has attested you to me, as a vigorously independent and sincere mind; sometimes mistaken, as I think you grossly were—(though all the time with decided sincerity)—in your zealous coincidence for a season with the peculiarities of W. L. Garrison and G. Thompson:4George Thompson (natural and generous coincidences as they were, considering what you at first owed to the prompt and earnest services of the former of those gentlemen.) But fully vindicating your bright and independent integrity, by acting as you have since done, truly for yourself; and by generally seeking more to live down, than to write down, their subsequent and continued abuse. Go on—let them alone, except it be to acknowledge whatever good may be in them.—But pass by with pity their striking errors; for deeply as I differ from them in many fundamental points, I am yet quite convinced, that as far as their mere intentions go, the slave has no friends more sincere and devoted than they. You have truth on your side in your difference with them; for I believe that God is leading you, in your abolition course, and you can well afford to let growlers growl, without reply.
I wish you would illustrate the fundamental axiom, that, every really wise government, must contain within itself, a lawful provision, for the fearful correction of whatever abuses may exist in its principles and practices, and that such a provision undeniably exists, in the 5th Article
your Constitutional amendments.5Ratification of any proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires passage by three-fourths of the states, as laid out in article V.


PLSr: FDP, 21 March 1856.


Stuart, Charles W.




Yale University Press 2018



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