Frederick Douglass to Amy Post, January 31, 1860
FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO AMY POST
[n.p.] [January 1860.]
I have therefore been compelled to do a good deal of preparatory work—in the way of making appointments. I find my war views decidedly objected to by my old Garrisonian friends in England.1Upon arriving in England, Douglass discovered that English Garrisonians were far less ad-
miring of John Brown and less forgiving of the use of violence than their American counterparts.
Although most English commentators were willing to accept that Brown and his associates had acted out of the “best of motives,” the raid itself was characterized as “rash,” and there was a general sense of “regret” that Brown and his men had “resorted to those measures which they did to break down the strong hold of oppression.” Even the sympathetic London Enquirer, as reported in the Liberator, argued that such “fruitless risings” would serve only to make conditions worse for the slaves and that Harpers Ferry was “but an insignificant incident in the history of the great social struggle.” Far harsher in its analysis was the Friends Review (whose opinion was endorsed by the Anti-Slavery Reporter), which not only “most profoundly deplore[d] the occurrence,” but took the view that even leaving aside the “immorality of the proceeding, the prospect of success was so utterly hopeless as to induce the belief that the principal actors must have been labouring under a species of insanity, or the blindest fanaticism.” Friends Review, 29 October 1859; Leeds Mercury, 29 November 1859; BFASR, new ser., 7:272 (1 December 1859); Lib., 9 December 1859; Seymour Drescher, “Servile Insurrection and John Brown’s Body in Europe,” in His Soul Goes Marching On: Responses to John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid, ed. Paul Finkelman (Charlottesville, 1995), 272-79, 293.
This is the more
ridiculous Since the Garrisonians in America are So deeply interested in the whole Brown invasion now.2In the immediate aftermath of the Harpers Ferry Raid, American Garrisonians were quick to distance themselves from the operation. While praising John Brown for his “display of courage and resolute opposition to deadly odds,” and acknowledging that the American Anti-Slavery Society was “in a sense... the occasion of the affair,” in late October the National Anti-Slavery Standard was adamant that such attempts “at arousing an insurrection of the slaves” were “expressly excluded” from the society’s constitution. It further argued that such actions as Brown had undertaken were in essence a “waste of the lives of brave men,” which not only had “no reasonable chance of delivering the slaves .. . [but would] only make their present condition worse than it was before.” That same month, in the Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison characterized the raid as a “well-intended but sadly misguided effort.” By December, however, John Brown had been fully embraced by Garrison and his allies, who proclaimed him to be a “hero, saint [and] martyr.” Indeed, speaking at a gathering of the American Anti-Slavery Society in Boston on the day of Brown’s execution (2 December 1859), Garrison went so far as to state that although he remained “‘a peace man—an ultra peace man,” he was now “prepared to say success to every slave insurrection [in] the South, and in every slave country.” Lib., 28 October, 9, 16 December 1859; NASS, 29 October 1859; Charles Joyner, “ 'Guilty of the Holiest Crime’: The Passion of John Brown,” in Finkelman, His Soul Goes Marching On, 314-16. I have no doubt, that Dear Isaac—your husband, stands his ground well on the peace question3No source on Isaac Post’s opinions regarding the Harpers Ferry Raid has been located. Possibly he expressed them directly to Douglass while assisting his flight to Rochester to prevent arrest by federal authorities. As Douglass implies, leading Garrisonians had wavered in their support of nonresistance by making public remarks praising John Brown after the raid. McFeely, Frederick Douglass, 200; Paul Finkelman, “Manufacturing Martyrdom: The Antislavery Response to John Brown’s Raid,” in Finkelman, His Soul Goes Marching On, 42, 59-61; DAB, 15:117.—amid all the war like utterances of his Garrison friends.
I have not yet found time, though I have often had the inclination to write to our Mutual friend Mrs G.4Possibly Eliza Bottum Galusha (1796-1884), widow of the Baptist minister and abolitionist
Reverend Elon Galusha (1790-1856). A native of Shaftsbury, Vermont, Eliza Bottum married Elon Galusha, son of two-time governor of Vermont Jonas Galusha, in 1814. Between 1815 and 1841, she accompanied her husband as he served a series of pastorates across western New York, including ones in Whitesboro, Perry, and Rochester, before finally settling in Lockport. Sharing her husband’s abolitionist beliefs, Eliza Galusha was active in several antislavery organizations, including both the Female Anti-Slavery Society and the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. Indeed, she was one of the cofounders of the Rochester Female Anti-Slavery Society and served as its leader for several years. 1860 U.S. Census, New York, Niagara County, 298; Rebekah Deal Oliver, The Bottum (Longbottom) Family Album: An Historical and Biographical Genealogy of the Descendants of Daniel (—1732) and Elizabeth (Lamb) Longbottom of Norwich, Connecticut (Denver, Colo., 1970), 259-61; Hewitt, Women’s Activism and Social Change, 56-57, 104-05, 111, 152 She must be much engaged just now with the movements of the American Anti Slavery Society in Western New York. I desire to be very cordially remembered to William Hallowell5Arriving in Rochester in 1841, William R. Hallowell (1816-82) ran a woolen mill and leather
business. The husband of Mary Hallowell, he was a member of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society, and of the board of education in Rochester. Peck, History of Rochester, 2:1243-44; Hewitt, Women’s Activism and Social Change, 61. and Mary—his wife.6Mary Hallowell (1823-1913) was the daughter of Isaac Post and his first wife, Hannah.
Mary and her husband, William, were numbered among Douglass’s circle of friends in Rochester and actively participated in the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society. She was also a member of local temperance and women’s rights organizations, and she acted as an agent for the National Anti-Slavery Standard in 1865. Hewitt, Women’s Activism and Social Change, 61, 131, 163, 209-10. It was very kind of him to make me a call when at the bridge.7The time and place of this meeting cannot be determined with any accuracy. Hallowell might
have encountered Douglass at one of bridges over the Genesee River in or near Rochester while the latter was fleeing the city to safety in Canada in the company of Amy and Isaac Post. Hallowell also might have met Douglass somewhere in Canada West before he departed for Great Britain, as at least two other Rochester friends had. Douglass to Amy Post, 27 October 1859, Amy Post Papers, NRU; McFeely, Frederick Douglass, 200, 202. The Sight of him was very refreshing to me—and look back to the time Spent there all the more pleasantly because his visit to me.
You would have smiled if you had been in Leeds a few Evenings ago8Sarah Remond and Douglass spoke at the Young Men’s Anti-Slavery Society annual meeting in Leeds, England, on 22 December 1859. Douglass Papers, ser. 1, 3:xxxi.—when
—and my self appeared upon the Same anti slavery platform—I think it must have been imbarrassing11Sarah Parker Remond had been generally well received by British audiences during her abolitionist speaking tour of Great Britain. The source of her embarrassment, if indeed it occurred, perhaps came from sharing a stage with the better-known Douglass, who had been publicly excommunicated from the Garrisonian abolitionist ranks, with which she was affiliated. Taylor, British and American Abolitionists, 440; Porter, “Sarah Parker Remond,” 290-92. to Miss Sarah—though she did not rebel—We both spoke—She with her accustomed Calmness—and I—whatever you please. The audience was much pleased with the two blacks from America [.]
I am now stopping with a family of much intelligence, wealth and refinements. The
ALS: Post Family Papers, NRU.
I am under the necessity of making all my Correspondents pay double postage for I cannot in the present Condition of funds do else.
Remember me kindly to Mrs G. and all inquiring friends yours Truly and affectionately
[P.S.] Give my love to Isaac—and tell him that he is always affectionately
I wish you all a most happy New year Excuse this miserable Scrawl—
ALS: Post Family Papers, NRU.
6. Mary Hallowell (1823-1913) was the daughter of Isaac Post and his first wife, Hannah.
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