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Ethiop [William J. Wilson] to Frederick Douglass, November 10, 1854


MY DEAR DOUGLASS:—Lottee Lee has said that this year's autumn has died no beautiful death; that it has been too lingering. I, too, must own that there has not been that sharp crispness, that sudden death, that though it shocks, renders the memory of autumn so delightful. There has been no rustling of the leaves, whose brown and gold varying in a single night, give such charms to the woody landscape. The little squirrel forbears to chatter as he missed the fall of the unobtrusive leaf; and the nut refuses to drop from out its shell; the swift winged bird looses his elasticity, and sits moodily in the high boughs; even the winds of heaven seem staid in their course, or lazily move along towards the regions of uncertainty; and we, poor mortals, half languid, half spiritless, go dragging out feeble forms along the feebler dictates of our wills. But, in all this, I fear I have leaned to Lottee's side of the topic: but there is another view not taken by this fair Sylvan of the Hudson. In this toiling, jostling, struggling world of ours, it is not what in nature will give strength and elasticity to the body, and pleasure to the senses, but what will protect us from the cold and hunger. This, at least, is the poor man's view of it; the unthinking masses; and from this point on, we, Gothamites, view the autumn, thus far in its mildness, as faborable to the toiling multitudes about us; and thus compelled by the very force of circumstances to pervert nature, to turn her inside out to meet our ends. If, my dear Douglass, we would begin the right way to work in this world: that is, begin at the beginning and work right along the whole course, what an amount of pain and misery would be spared. Enlarged, cultured humanity might then be able, and well afford --nay, delight to sit and watch the change of a fall of a leaf, the budding of a flower, the putting forth of a tree, or the ripening of a shock of corn.
If we, the people of color, could be induced to seek in the right direction for the means of elevation, despite all opposition, this felicity would be ours. There can be no doubt that the chief means of elevation is to be found in the soil, and the taxation of skill for development. What we want is intelligent earth-workers and mechanices. These give impetus as well as permanence to progress; they give independence and strength to any people. We want this moment of hundreds of hardy yeomanry—independent tillers of the soil—scattered along the banks of our beautiful Hudson and Mohawk, and the Connecticut, and the Raritan, and the Delaware, and the Susquehannah; and each with Lottee Lee breathing forth the pure buoyant, sparking, vivifying thoughts -- thoughts inspired by mountain breezes, craggs and brooks, and hills and meads; by the tinkling herd bell, the lowing cattle, and the forest bird song; by the babbling of joyous merry voices of Home—independent Home—Sweet Home—country Home. We talk of emigration but never move. We see, with glowing delight, lands flowing with mild and honey far o'er the dark blue sea, and beyond impassable mountains, barriers and the death-swamps in the dim distance, but forget the more simple and practical hill slopes, and green values within the first reach of our vision. But, in all this, we, perhaps, in no wise different from our white neighbors; indeed, in planning we are better than they, only worse in executing. What we want is no less of this restless spirit, occasionally manifesting itself among us, but to give it proper channel, to bring it from its etherial to the substantial.


F.D.P. 17 Nov., 1854 p.3 c.3-4

These reflections were induced partly by
the reason, partly by the masses of human-
ity around me, partly by Lottee, and partly
by a beautiful sight in Siloam. I would that
such presented itself weekly! Yes, my dear
sir, a most beautiful sight—the most beauti-
ful conceivable—a wedding scene. The
parties are young and sprightly. May succ-
cess and a long life of happiness attend

Between you I, my dear Douglass, (tho'
sad to state it,) there is very little marrying
and giving in marriage among the people of
color in and about Go'ham, now-a days. I
think, too, I could readily assign the reason;
but— Bishop Paine it was, I think, who
wrote, some time since, a series of papers
upon the subject of matrimony. Now that
the good Bishop's circumstances are not what
they were then, will he not give us some
plain practical hints (mind, plain) on the ad-
vantages of early marriage among our peo-
ple? One of the great questions with me, is
the question of numbers on this continent.

The election battle has just been fought;
to what precise effect, it is hard yet to say;
though as the fowls of the vanquished mul-
titude begin to be heard only in the distance,
and the smoke begins to clear away, we be-
hold the noble form of the noble CULVER
standing erect on the field with the scales of
in one hand, and the cap of Liberty
in the other. More anon,

P.S. Tell Comm[??] that the [??]
on the Heights is [??] on the [all illegible - too blurred]
and the [illegible]
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, Nov. 10, 1854.


Wilson, William J. (1818–?)


November 10, 1854


Ethiop [William J. Wilson] to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick DouglassP, 17 November 1854. Remarks upon the transition from autumn to winter in New York City.


This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


Frederick Douglass' Paper



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