Frederick Douglass to Edwin M. Stanton, July 13, 1863
FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO EDWIN M. STANTON1Edwin McMasters Stanton (1814-69), a Democrat, was a prominent lawyer from Ohio. In 1862, President Lincoln appointed him secretary of war to replace the discredited Simon Cameron. While in office, Stanton restored the War Department’s credibility and switched his allegiance to the Republican party. He remained in office after Lincoln’s assassination, but differences with President Andrew Johnson regarding Reconstruction led to a falling out with the new administration. Johnson tried to dismiss Stanton from office, but Congress reinstated him and impeached Johnson for violating the Tenure of Office Act. Stanton resigned in 1868 when Congress failed to remove Johnson from office. President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Stanton to the Supreme Court in 1869, but Stanton died before taking the bench. Benjamin P. Thomas and Harold M. Hyman, Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln’s Secretary of War (New York, 1962); DAB, 17:517-521; ANB, 20:558-562.
Philadelphia[, Pa.] 13 July 1863.
I wish, very respectfully to commend to your consideration my friend, mr George T. Downing, of New Port Rhode Island, as an applicant for the office of Brigade Quarter master of Colored Troops. Mr Downing is an experienced business man and in my judgment, he is a man everyway qualified by Character and ability to fill the place he Seeks with entire Satisfaction to your views of its requirement.
I moreover think the appointment of Mr Downing would have an excellent effect upon the Colored Citizens all over the north—and tend to facilitate Colored enlistments here in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. I am one of those Colored men who Say office or no office, equal or unequal pay,2Before the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts was mustered, potential recruits were promised wages equal to those of white Union soldiers. After the unit’s formation, the federal government rescinded this offer, deciding instead to pay all black soldiers the laborer’s rate of ten dollars a month, regardless of rank. The Fifty-fourth, along with most other black units, refused their pay, demanding equality. The issue bothered Douglass, the father of two black soldiers, and he voiced his concerns in his first meeting with President Abraham Lincoln, which occurred at the White House on 10 August 1863. In June 1864, the administration relented and Congress granted equal pay to all black soldiers who had been free in April 1861. In March 1865, in the face of further protest, former slaves were also granted full wages. Full back pay was dispersed for the entire unpaid period. Douglass Papers, ser. 2, 3:271-72; Redkey, Grand Army of Black Men, 206; Sutherland, African Americans at War, 1:32-35; Glatthaar, Forged in Battle, 169-175; EAAH, 258-59. bounty or no bounty. the place for Colored men is in the army of the United States: nevertheless I see that the appointment of Such a man as Mr Downing would vastly strengthen the claims of the country upon this class of its people.
With very great Respect Iam, Honored sir. Your Obedt. Servt.
ALS: Gilbert A. Tracey Papers, CtHIS.