Pictures and Progress: An Address Delivered in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 3, 1861
PICTURES AND PROGRESS: AN ADDRESS DELIVERED IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, ON 3 DECEMBER 1861
Speech File, reel 14, frames 355—74, FD Papers, DLC. Another text in Boston Daily Journal, 4 December 1861.
On 3 December 1861 Douglass delivered an address on the value and enduring quality of photographs as part of the Fraternity Course lectures at Boston's Tremont Temple. Departing from his usual subject matter, Douglass also deviated from his customary speaking procedure by reading a prepared lecture. The Boston correspondent of the Springfield (Mass.) Republican thought it “came near being a total failure; the Speaker only saved himself by switching off suddenly from his subject, and pitching in on the great question of the day”—slavery and the Civil War. The adoption of a new topic prompted the conclusion that the “closing part of the address, though disjointed and rambling, gave evidence of some of Douglass’s old power, and the audience applauded . . . relieved from what they feared would be . . . an evening without result.” Another reporter observed that when Douglass spoke on the issues of the day the results were “magical,” transforming a “listless and unattentive body” into one that was “attentive and enthusiastic.” Douglass presented variations of this lecture before and after his Boston appearance, as evidenced both by newspaper notices and by the contents of several similarly worded manuscripts in his own handwriting. One earlier delivery, under the title “Life Pictures,” occurred on 15 November 1861 when Douglass spoke before “some four or five hundred persons” at Wieting Hall in Syracuse, New York. No stenographic report of any delivery of this lecture has yet been located. However, the undated version published here, written in Douglass’s hand, is strikingly similar in content and organization to a summary of the speech that appeared in the Boston Daily Journal on 4 December 1861. See Appendix A, text 6, for précis of alternate texts. Syracuse (N.Y.) Journal, 16 November 1861; Boston Daily Journal, 3 December 1861; NASS, 14 December 1861.
The title of my lecture has the excellent merit of indefiniteness. It confines me nowhere and leaves me free to present anything from which may be derived either instruction or amusement. With this latitude of range allow me to say that I am profoundly grateful for the honor of being called to lecture in this most popular course.1The “Fraternity of the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society” began sponsoring a fall series of public lectures in Boston‘s Tremont Temple in 1858. The series was often described in the press as the Parker Fraternity Lectures, after Theodore Parker, the minister of the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society until his death in 1860. Among the other speakers in the 1861 series were Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Ward Beecher, Wendell Phillips, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and Charles Sumner, Lib., 1 October 1858, 30 September 1859,. 16 November 1860, 11 October 1861. I take it as a compliment to my
[whole]2Crossed out in ms. enslaved race: that while summoning men before you from the highest seats of learning philosophy and statesmanship—you have also summoned one from the slave plantation. ()n this, the committee of management have, in one act, labelled their course both philosophic and cosmopolitan.
I confess that lecture reading is not my forte—and that consenting to stand here at all, comes more from confidence in your indulgence, than from any confidence in my own ability. Our age gets very little credit either for poetry or song. It is generally condemned to wear the cold metalic stamp of a passionless utilitarianism. It certainly is remarkable for many [things]3Crossed out in ms. achievements, small and great, which accord with this popular description—and yet, for nothing is it more remarkable, than for the multitude, variety, perfection and cheapness of its pictures. The praises of Arkwright, Watt, Franklin, Fulton, and Morse4Sir Richard Arkwright, James Watt, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Fulton, and Samuel F. B. Morse. are upon all lips. But the great father of our modern pictures is seldom mentioned, though as worthy as the foremost. If by means of the all pervading electric fluid Morse has coupled his name with the glory of bringing the ends of the earth together, and of converting the world into a whispering gallery. Daguerre5Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre. by the simple but all abounding sunlight has converted the planet into a picture gallery. As munificent in the exalted arena of art, as in the radiation of light and heat, the God of day not only decks the earth with rich fruit and beautiful ﬂowers—but studs the world with pictures. Daguerrotypes, Ambrotypes, Photographs and Electrotypes,6Douglass lists some of the earliest methods of photography and its printed reproduction. In 1839 Louis Jacques Mande’ Daguerre made public his daguerrotype process, by which a photographic image was produced on a chemically treated silver or silver-colored copper plate. The ambrotype process was invented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851 and produced a negative image on a glass plate treated with collodion. The glass plate was then bleached and backed in black to create a positive image. Alfred Donne made the daguerrotypes printable by etching out the clear silver area on the metal plate and then building up the highlights by the electrotype process. The plates could then hold ink and be used for printing. Cecil Beaton and Gail Buckland, The Magic Image: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston, 1975), 10-14; Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (New York, 1964), 48 49, 175; Patrick Daniels, Early Photography (London, 1978), 16-18, 31. good and bad, now adorn or disfigure all our dwellings. It has long been a standing complaint with
social reformers and political economists that mankind have everywhere been cheated of the natural fruit of their own inventive genius: &c.
I shall not stop here to argue whether this broad and bitter complaint is well or ill-founded. It is enough for the present that it does not stand against the wonderful discovery and invention by Daguerre. Men of all conditions may see themselves as others see them. What was once the exclusive luxury of the rich and great is now within reach of all. The humbled servant girl whose income is but a few shillings per week may now possess a more perfect likeness of herself than noble ladies and court royalty, with all its precious treasures could purchase fifty years ago. Yet Dag[uerre] might have been forgotten but for incor[porating] his name with [sentence incomplete].
That so little is said of the Author of this pictorial abundance is explained only on the principle that men are proven to value things more for their rarity than for their excellence. We drink freely of the water at the marble fountain, without thinking for the assessement of the toil and skill displayed in constructing the fountain itself. [Daguerre might have been forgotten but for incorporating his name with his wonderful discovery.]7Crossed out in ms., apparently to be inserted as the last, incomplete sentence in the preceding paragraph.
That Daguerre, has supplied a great want, is seen less in Eulogys bestowed upon his name, than in the rapidity and universality, with which his invention has been adopted. The smallest town now has its Daguerrian Gallery; and even at the cross roads—where stood but a solitary Blacksmith shop and what was once a country Tavern but now in the last stages of delapidation—you will find the inevitable Daguerrian Gallery. Shaped like a baggage car, with a hot house window at the top—adorned with red curtains resting on gutterpurchia [guttapercha] springs and wooden wheels painted yellow. The farmer boy gets an iron shoe for his horse, and metalic picture for himself at the same time, and at the same price.
The old commercial maxim, that demand regulates supply is reversed here.8Adam Smith popularized this adage in his Wealth of Nations, 2: 244—45. Supply regulates demand. The facilities for travel has sent the world abroad—and the ease and cheapness with which we get our pictures has brought us all within range of the daguerrian apparatus.
I think it may be fairly doubted if this pictorial [abundance]9Crossed out in ms. plenty, has done much for modest distrust of our good looks. No one hesitated thus
to commit [themselves]10Crossed out in ms. himself to the judgment of posterity. A man who now o’days publishes a book, or peddles a patent medicine and does not publish his face to the world with it may almost claim and get credit for simpler modesty. Handsome or homely [,] manly or mean, if an author’s face can possibly be other than fine looking the picture must be in the book, or the book be considered incomplete. It may also be proper here to notice, that pictures are decid[ed]ly conservative. It would be difficult to determine as between a mans picture and a mans religious creed which of the twain is most conservative in its influence upon him. The one is the measure of outer man and the other of the in[ner] and both are positive law—on the points to which they apply. Once fairly in the book and the man may be considered a fixed fact, public property. In nine cases out of ten he so regards himself. The picture may be like him or not like him, or like any body else than him.
But this triﬂing circumstance, however much he may regret it, cannot be allowed to make any manner of difference in his conduct.
On no account whatever, either in deference to an improved taste or a change of fashion, can he be allowed any liberties with the style of his coat, the shape of his collar, or the cut of his hair. His position is defined, and his whole personae must now conform to, and never contradict the immortal likeness or unlikeness in the Book.
Byron11George Gordon Lord Byron (1788— 1824), English romantic poet and champion of Greek independence. DNB, 3: 584-607. says, a man always looks dead, when his Biography is written. The same is even more true when his picture is taken. There is ever something statue like about such men. See them when or where you will, and unless they are totally off guard, they are either serenely sitting, or rigidly standing in what they fancy their best attitude for a picture.
The stem serenity of our photographic processes, in tracing the features, and forms of men, might deter some of us from operation, but for that most kind natural Providence, by which, most men easily see in themselves points of beauty and excellence, which wholly ellude the observation of all others.
There is scarcely any weakness which is more common, or of which, men are more ashamed, than that of conceatedness and vanity of personal appearance. And yet, it may be doubted if any man ever sat for a picture or stood for a bust, without being conscious of more or less of that girlish weakness.
The stringent and celebrated order given to his artist, by Oliver Crumwell, may seem to make him an exception to this criticism. “Paint me as I am.”—sounds well, and accords well with the popular idea of the manly character of the stern old Puritan. 12Douglass alludes to the reputed instructions given by Oliver Cromwell (1599— 1658), leader of parliamentary forces in the English Civil War and “Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland" (1653—58), to the portraitist Sir Peter Lely: “Mr. Lely. I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not ﬂatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts, and every thing as you see me, otherwise I never will pay a farthing for it." Horace Walpole, Anecdotes of Painting in England; with Some Account of the Principle Artists; and Incidental Notes on Other Arts, 5 vols. (London, 1808), 3: 31—32; DNB, 5: 155-86, 11: 898-900. It is taken to mean: I want no favor, no flattery, no fraud—“paint me as I am” nothing extenuate, nor aught set down in malice; but certain facts common to humanity, might suggest another meaning and another motive, quite as human and quite as likely, if not quite so creditable! [as the more obvious ones.13Crossed out in ms. Men do not often lose their selflove in their all abounding love of truth. To himself and to his friends and admirers, Crumwell’s person, not less than his genius was admirable. “Paint me as I am” therefore, may mean I am handsome enough, don’t try to improve upon the original. It is somewhere said of him, that he esteemed, the huge wart on his face, as less a deformity than a beauty.
As to the moral and social influence of pictures, it would hardly be extravagant to say of it, what Moore has said of that of ballads, give me the making of a nations ballads, and I care not who has the making of its Laws.14Douglass paraphrases a saying of Scottish political essayist Andrew Fletcher (1655—1716): “I knew a very wise man . . . [who] believed if a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation.” The consensus of modem scholars is that Fletcher‘s “wise man" was his friend the noted historian John Selden (1584-1654). Andrew Fletcher, The Political Works of Andrew Fletcher, Esq. of Saltoun (Glasgow, 1749), 266; DNB, 7 : 292—96, 17: 1150—62. The picture and the ballad are alike, if not equally social forces—the one reaching and swaying the heart by the eye, and the other by the ear.
As an instrument of wit, of biting satire, the picture is admitted to be unrivalled. It strikes human nature on the weakest of all its many weak sides, and upon the instant, makes the hit probable to all beholders. The dullest vision can see and comprehend at a glance the full effect of a point which may have taxed the wit and skill of the artist many hours, and days.
No where is this power better understood, or where it is practiced with better results than in England. Punch is a power more potent than parliament. He commands both Lords and commons, and does not spare even
Windsor Castle. Always on the side of liberal ideas, and progress, he is no more welcome in Austria than the Liberator in South Carolina.15The London-based humor magazine Punch, or the London Charivari was founded in 1841 by Ebenezer Landells, Mark Lemon, and Henry Mayhew. A champion of democratic and social reforms, Punch's biting political satire and fearless caricatures of leading contemporary figures quickly attracted a large readership. R. G. G. Price, A History of "Punch" (London, 1957), 19-81; Marion H. Spielmann, The History of “Punch” (London, 1895), 10—28, 99—121.
It is commonly said over there, that a man not great enough to be caracatured in Punch, is not great enough to carry a measure in Parliament. The inventive fertility of its conductors is the greatest marvel. It never repeats, and is never exhausted. It not only has the art of laughing contagiously, but what is more important it knows how to laugh in the right place, and in the right time. John Bull16John Bull, a character reputed to typify the English nation, was first popularized in John Arbuthnot, The History of John Bull (London, 1714). William George Smith, ed. , The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs, 3d ed. (Oxford, 1970), 412—13. reports all its wise sayings at the breakfast table—and only laughs when Punch gives the word—[He is sure to laugh then even if]17Crossed out in ms. though that shall be at his own expense.
In our country, though we have no Punch of this wry sort, though we have a plenty of the other, the picture plays an important part in our politics and often explodes political shams more effectively, than any other agency. All have remarked that Men can better bear to be denounced as knaves, than to be laughed at as fools.
In the making of our Presidents, the political gathering begins the operation, and the picture gallery ends it. The winner, in order to outvote, must out laugh his adversary.
Success is the admitted standard of American greatness and it is marvelous to observe how readily it also becomes the [ideal]18Crossed out in ms. standard of manly beauty. There is marked improvement in the features of the successful man, and a corresponding deterioration in those of the unsuccessful. Our military heroes look better even in pictures, after winning an important battle, than after losing one. The pictures do not change, but we look at them through the favorable or unfavorable prevailing public opinion. Honest old Thomas Whitson19Thomas Whitson (1796—1864) was a veteran abolitionist and Underground Railroad agent. Born in West Fallowfield, Pennsylvania, of Hicksite Quaker parentage, Whitson received little formal education and enlivened many antislavery meetings with his forceful, but ungrammatical, speeches. He attended the 1833 convention that founded the American Anti-Slavery Society and was the first to sign its declaration of principles. Whitson sided with the Garrisonians in the abolition schism of 1840 and strongly supported nonresistant principles. Robert C. Smedley, History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania (Lancaster, Pa., 1883), 67—70, 131; NASS, 3 December 1864. a man possessing [much]20Crossed out in ms. far more
witt than beauty was not far wrong, when he said that even he should be handsome upon a favorable change in public opinion.
It is perhaps on the same principle of prospective beauty, that ministers sometimes console the race to which I belong assuring them that though black and ugly on the Earth—they will all be white & beautiful in heaven.
Next to bad manuscripts, pictures can be made the greatest bores. Authors, Editors, and printers suffer by the former, while almost every body has suffered by the latter. They are pushed at you in every house you enter, and what is worse you are required to give an opinion of them.
Now, it is easy enough for one who thoroughly understands the art, to criticise pictures generally, but who can comment satisfactorily upon the various performances of our youngest Daughter, when that amiable young Lady is right at your Elbow.21Douglass's younger daughter, Annie, died in Rochester, New York, on 13 March 1860, less than two weeks before her eleventh birthday. DM, 2: 243—44 (April 1861). To say anything is positively dangerous—and to say nothing is more so. It is no kindness to a guest to place him in such circumstances. Pictures like songs, should be left to make there own way in the world. All they can reasonably ask of us is that we place them on the wall, in the best light, and for the rest allow them to speak for themselves. Music is excellent, but too much of it will disturb the nerves like the filing of a saw.
Of all things the mental atmosphere surrounding us, is not easily moved in this or that direction. The first causes of its oscillations are often too occult for the most subtle. The influence of pictures upon this all surrounding and all powerful thought element may some day, furnish a theme for those better able than I, to do it justice. It is evident that the great cheapness, and universality of pictures must exert a powerful though silent inﬂuence, upon the ideas and sentiment of [the time]22Crossed out in ms. present [and] future generations. The family is the fountain head of all mental and moral influence. And the presence there of the miniture forms and faces of our loved ones whether separated from us by time and space, or by the Silent countenents of Eternity—must act powerfully upon the minds of all. They bring to mind all that is amiable and good, in the departed, and strengthen the same qualities.
But it is not of such pictures that I am here to speak exclusively. I am at liberty to touch the element out of which our pictures spring. There are certain groups and combinations of facts and features, some pleasant [,] some sad, which possess in large measure the quality of pictures, and affect us accordingly. They are thought pictures,—the outstanding headlands of the meandering shores of life and are points to steer by on the broad sea of thought and experience. They body forth in living forms and colors, the ever varying lights and shadows of the soul.
It is worthy of remark to begin with that of all the animal world man alone has a passion for pictures. Neither dogs nor Elephants ranging nearest to man in point of intelligence, show any sensation of pleasure in the presense of the highest work of art. The dog fails to recognize his own features in a glass. The power to make, and to appreciate pictures belong to man exclusively.
Some of our so called learned naturalists, archeologists and Ethnol[o]gists, have professed some difficulty in settling upon a fixed, certain, and definite line separating the lowest man from the highest animal. To all such I commend the fact that man is everywhere, a picture making animal. The rudest of men have some idea of tracing definite lines, and of imitating the forms and colors of objects about them.
The ver[i]est savage has found means of doing this upon his own cuticle. Savages have been found with the form of a European coat tatooted on their skins.23This sentence appears in the margin of the ms. The rule I believe is without an exception and may be safely commended to the Notts and Gliddens24Josiah Clark Nott and George Robert Glidden. who are just now puzzled with the question as to whether the African slave should be treated as a man or an ox.
Rightly viewed, the whole soul of man is a sort of picture gallery[,] a grand panorama, in which all the great facts of the universe, in tracing things of time and things of eternity are painted. The love of pictures stands first among our passional inclinations, and is among the last to forsake us in our pilgrimage here. In youth it gilds all our Earthly future with bright and glorious visions; and [as] we age, it paves the streets of our paradise with gold and sets all its opening gates with pearls.25Douglass alludes to the description of the heavenly city found in Rev. 21: 21.
But childhood especially delights in symbols. Our natural and primary instructors, both as nations and individuals are symbols and songs. For this
child state, let the broad world be filled with all the music of song—and pictures. The world has no sight more pleasant and hopeful, either for the child, or for the race, than one of these little ones in rapt contemplation of a pure work of art. The process is one of self revelation, a comparison of the pure forms of beauty and excellence without, with those which are within.
Men talk much of a new birth. The fact is fundamental. But the mistake is in treating it as an incident which can only happen to a man once in a life time; whereas, the whole journey of life is a succession of them. A new life springs up in the soul, with the discovery of every new agency by which the soul is raised to a higher level of wisdom, goodness and joy.
The poor savage, accustomed only to the stunning war whoop of his tribe, and to the wild and startling sounds in nature, of winds, waterfalls, and thunder, meets with a change of heart the first time he hears the Divine harmonies, of scientific[ 1’] music: and the child experiences one with every new object, by means of which it is brought into a nearer and fuller acquaintance with its own subjective nature. With every step he attains a larger, fuller and freer range of vision. All the pictures in the book are known before a single lesson is learned. They speak to him in his own tongue.
On the hillside in the valley under the grateful shades of solitary oaks and Elms the boy often all forgetful. of time or place, calls to books, or to boyish sports, looks up with silence and awe to the blue overhanging fermament and views with dreamy wonder, its ever drifting drapery, tracing in the Clouds, and in their ever changing forms and colors, the outlines of towns and cities, great ships and hostile armies of men [and]26Crossed out in ms. of horses, solemn Temples, and the Great Spirit of all: Break in if you please upon the prayers of monks or nuns, but I pray you, do not disturb the divine meditations of that little Child. He is unfolding to himself the Divinest of all human faculties, for such is the picture making faculty of man.
It is a chief element of all that is religious and poetic about us. To the eye and spirit it is what music is to the ear and heart. We may enjoy all the delights of the concord of sweet sounds, long before we understand the subtle principles and processes of their harmonious combination. Their mission like that of music, is to refine the taste, enoble the spirit—and to lead on, through all the depressing visicissetudes of life, the longing soul, by glorious prophecies of ever unfolding beauty and excellence.
I have said that man is a picture making and a picture appreciating animal and have pointed out that fact as an important line of distinction
between man and all other animals. The point will bear additional emphasis.
It lies, directly in the path of what I conceive to be a key to the great mystery of life and progress. The process by which man is able to invert his own subjective consciousness, into the objective form, considered in all its range, is in truth the highest attribute of mans nature. All that is really peculiar to humanity—in contradistinction from all other animals proceeds from this one faculty or power. It is that which has sometimes caused us, in our moments of Enthusiasm, to lose sight of man as a creature, finite and Limited, and to invest him, with the dignity of a Creator.
It is said that the best gifts are most abused, this among the rest. Conscience, itself is missdirected: shocked at delightful sounds, beautiful colors and graceful movements—but sleeps at ease amid the ten thousand agonies of war and slavery.
This picture making faculty is flung out into the world—like all others—subject to a wild scramble between contending interests and forces. It is a mighty power—and the side to which it goes has achieved a wonderous conquest. For the habit we adopt, the master we obey in making our subjective nature objective, giving it form, colour, space, action and utterance, is the all important thing to ourselves and our surroundings. It will either lift us to the highest heavens or sink us to the bottomless depths, for good and evil know limits. A man once fairly started in the wrong direction runs, with ever increasing speed, like a frightened child in the wilderness, from the distant echoes of his own footfalls.
All wishes, all aspirations, all hopes, all fears, all doubts, all determinations, grow stronger and stronger precisely in proportion as they get themselves expressed in words, forms[,] colours, and actions.
The work of the revivalist, is more than half done when he has got a man to stand up in the congregation as an indication of his need of grace. The strength of an iron halter—was needed for this first act, but now like Rarey’s horses,27John Solomon Rarey (1827—66), the most renowned horse trainer of his day, was born in Groveport, Ohio, and developed his skill while working on his father's farm. An advocate of humane methods for breaking and training horses, Rarey became a popular lecturer and writer on that topic in the 1850s. In 1860 he traveled to Europe, where his reputation was greatly enhanced by his taming of Cruiser, a racehorse which, after killing one of its grooms, had been continuously kept in an iron muzzle. Rarey toured the United States with Cruiser in 1861 and 1862 and attracted thousands to his exhibitions of horse-breaking techniques. New York Times, 5, 7 January 1861; New York Herald, 6 January 1861; John Rarey, The Modern Art of Taming Wild Horses (Columbus, Ohio, 1856); ACAB, 5: 184; DAB, 15: 385. he may be led by a straw.
Of all our religious denominations the Roman Catholic understands
this picture passion best. It wisely addresses, the religious consciousness in its own language—the child language of the soul. Pictures, images, and other symbolical representations, speak to the imagination. The mighty fortress of the human heart silently withstands the assaults by the rifled cannons of reason but readily falls before the magic power of mystery. Remove from the Church of Rome, her cunning [?] illusions,—her sacred alters, her pictures, her images, her tapers, her mitres, her solemn pomp and her gorgeous ceremonies, the mere shades [?] of things and her magical and entrancing power over men would disappear. Take the cross from before the name of the Arch Bishop—and he is James or John like the rest of us.
Protestantism relies more upon words and actions than upon paints or chisels to express its sentiments and ideas—and yet the most successful of her teachers and preachers—are, but painters: and succeed because they are such.
Dry logic and illaborate arguments—though perfect in all their appointments and though knitted together as a coat of mail, lays down the Law to Empty benches.
But he who speaks to the feelings, who enters the souls deepest meditations, holding the mirror up to nature, revealing the profoundist mysteries of the human heart to the eye and ear by action and by utterance, will never want for an audience.
Only a few men wish to think while all wish to feel, for feeling is divine, and infinite.
Feeling and mystery, are not however, the only conditions of successful painting[,] speaking or writing. A man can have permanent hold upon his fellows—by means of falsehood. He must conform to the Crumwellian rule. Better remain dumb than utter a falsehood—better repeat the old truth forever than to spin out a pure fiction. With the clear perception of things as they are, must stand the faithful rendering of things as they seem. The dead fact is nothing without the living impression. Niagara is not fitly described when it is said to be a river of this or that volume falling over a ledge of rocks two hundred feet, nor is thunder when simply called a jarring noise. This is truth, but truth disrobed of its sublimity and glory. A kind of frozen truth, destitute of motion itself—it is incapable of producing emotion in others.
But on the other hand to give us the glory as some do without the glorified object is a still greater transgression and makes those who do it as those who beat the air.
We are all deeply affected by Hogarths pictures.28William Hogarth (1697-1764), English artist, who satirically assailed the manners and morals of the British aristocracy in his numerous paintings and engravings. Ronald Paulson, Hogarth: His Life, Art, and Times (New Haven, 1971); DNB, 9: 977 —91. The secret is to [be] found only in the fact that he painted life both as it is and as it seems. The power of his pictures is the power of truth.
His characters, like those of Shakspeare. are clothed with ﬂesh and blood, and are warm with the common sympathys of the race. They speak to us in a known tongue—and of men and women here on the Earth, where men and women live[,] and not among the stars, where men and women do not live. They are not angels nor demons—but much of both in their tendencies and possibilities. They are our Brothers and sisters. Thinking, living, acting very much as we easily fancy we might have done in their places.
Man everywhere worships man, and in the last analyses worships himself. He finds in himself the qualities he calls divine and reverently bows before them. This is the best he can do. It is the measure of his being. The God of the merciful and just man is merciful and just, despite the Church Creed: and the God of the selfish and cruel man—is a being in wood, stone, iron or in Imagination after his own image, no matter what he has come to believe in the Church Creed.
Our angel has a human face and the wings of a bird. Both are of the Earth—Earthy—but this too, is the best we can do in angel [making]29Crossed out in ms. picturing, for man can never rise above humanity—even in his religion.
The Church that we build unto the Lord, we build unto ourselves—and the style which pleases us best, pleases best our God. At one end we have the Shedlike building of the Quaker, and at the other the splendid architecture of the Roman Catholic.
The sword we present to our military hero—and the banner we present to our regiment we present to ourselves—and the joy of the receiver is the joy of the giver.
[The heart]30Crossed out in ms. Man warms, glows and expands only where it sees [itself]31Crossed out in ms. himself asserted—broadly and truly. This is the crucible in which we try all laws, religions, morals and Governments.
But man is not a block of marble—measured and squared by rule and compass—so that his inches can be set down on a slate.
All that would permanently minister to him, must like him self contain the element of progress.
Desire rises with gratification. What pleases in the morning, fails to please in the Evening. The manna32White, breadlike food supplied miraculously to the Hebrews six days a week during their forty years of wandering in the desert of the Arabian peninsula. Exod. 16: 4—35. must be fresh or it is good for nothing.
The whining school boy with satchel and shining morning face, is entranced by sights and sounds in nature which lose all their enchanting power over him, when he touches that ambitious point of life, where Shakspeare paints him bearded like a pard—jealous in honor, sudden and quick in Quarel. Seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannons
mouth.33Douglass quotes from As You Like It, act 2, sc. 7, lines 149—53: “Then a soldier, / Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, / Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel, / Seeking the bubble Reputation / E‘en in the cannon‘s mouth.“
Failing to meet this requirement [the] teacher—the sect[,] the party, the nation—the government must fail.
[The choice is ever between growth and decay.]34Crossed out in ms. The United States government is yet within a century of its birth. It is not old as we span the lives of nations. It is still in the inner circle of boyhood. It is a big boy—however, and has grown immensely and rapidly. It has risen in three quarters of a century from three, millions, to thirty.35According to the first U.S. Census, the population in 1790 was 3,929,827. Seventy years later, the census recorded 31,443,321 Americans. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistics of the United States (Including Mortality, Property, &c..) in 1860; Compiled from the original returns and being the final exhibit of the Eighth Census (Washington, D.C., 1860), x. It is great in population—great in wealth, great in knowledge, great in commerce, great in nearly all the fundamental elements of national greatness.
But yesterday the Republic of America sat as a queen among the nations of the Earth, knowing no sorrow—smiling in safety while crowns and coronets were rent—and thrones and dynasties were toppling in Europe.
Today, every pillar in our great national temple is shaken. We have fallen asunder in the centre. War and blood have burst forth with savage ferocity among brothers. A million of men are in arms—and the end is not yet.
To what cause may we trace this dreadful calamity? Not the secondary cause,—but the grand original cause.
Some say to sectionalism. But there is nothing in the geographical divisions of the country which should cause trouble.
Land intersected by a narrow frith [firth] abhor each other
And mountains interposed make enimies of nations
Which else like kindred drops had mingled into one36Douglass slightly misquotes lines 16—19 of William Cowper‘s The Time Piece. Bailey, Poems of William Cowper, 267.
But even this cause does not hold here, for all our rivers and mountains point to unity and oneness. There is no reason why the corn fields of the north should quarel with the cotton fields of the south.
Some say, it is the slaveholders who have brought this great Evil upon us. I do not assent even to this.
Others say that the real cause of all our troubles may be traced to the busy tongues and pens of the abolitionists.
The cause is deeper down than sections, slaveholders or abolitionists. These are but the hands of the clock. The moving machinery is behind the face. The machinery moves not because of the hands, but the hands because of the machinery. To make the hands go right you must make the machinery go right. The trouble is fundamental. Two cannot walk together except they be agreed.37Douglass paraphrases Amos 3: 3: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” No man can serve two masters.38Matt. 6: 24 and Luke 16: 13. A house divided against itself cannot stand.39Douglass paraphrases Matt. 12: 25, Mark 3: 24- 25, and Luke 11: 17. It is something to ride two horses going the same way, but impossible when going opposite ways. The folly is just here:
We have attempted to maintain a union in defiance of the moral chemistry of the universe. To join together what God has put asunder—40Douglass adapts Matt. I‘) : ()2 “What therefore (iod hath joined together. let no man put asunder." We have thought to keep one end of the chain on the limbs of the bondman without having the other on our own necks.
[The experiment has failed as all such experiments]41Crossed out in ms. Anchoring the ship of state to the dull dead mass of slavery, we have set sail for a prosperous voyage—and we have got our sails and rigging blown away and our cable broken as the result of our experiment.
Here is the trouble, plain before all I[s]rael &; the Sun,42Douglass adapts 2 Sam. 12: 12. &c. Slavery AND rebellion go hand in hand.
But since the evil has not been prevented how shall it be remedied?
My opinion may not be worth much, but such as it is—IT is freely given.
Thus far, it must be confessed that we have struck wide of the mark—and very feebly withal. The temper of our steel is better than the temper of our minds. While I do not charge—as some have that the Government is conducting the war on peace principles—it is plain that they are not conducting it on war principles.
We are fighting the Rebels with only one hand when we ought to be ﬁghting them with both. We are recruiting our troops at the north when we ought to be recruiting them at the south. We are striking with our white hand, while our black one is chained behind us. We are catching slaves instead of arming them. We are repelling our natural friends—to win the friendship of our unnatural enimies. We are endeavoring to heal over the rotten cancer, instead of cutting out its death dealing roots and fibres. We seem [about as much].43Crossed out in ms. a little more concerned for the safety of slavery than for the safety of the Republic.
I say here and now, that if this shall be destroyed—the government shall be broken to pieces—the union of these states dissolved—it will neither be for want of men nor money—nor bravery but because the Government at Washington [is as tolerant of slavery]44Crossed out in ms. has shouldered all the burden of slavery in the prosecution of the war—and given to its enimies all its benefits.
Witness The treatment of Fremonts proclamation.45 On 30 August 1861, John Charles Fremont, commanding general of the Western Department, issued a proclamation from his headquarters in St. Louis that instituted martial law in Missouri, threatened to execute those found guilty of bearing arms against the Federal government, and declared free the slaves of all persons in Missouri who were aiding the Confederacy. In a letter of 11 September 1861, President Lincoln ordered Fremont to amend the portion of his proclamation concerning slaves so that it would conform to the Confiscation Act of 6 August 1861. That act deprived the owners of slaves being used to aid the rebellion of their claim to the labor of such slaves but did not alter the legal status of the bondsmen themselves. Lincoln to [John C.] Fremont, 2, 11 September 1861, in Basler, Collected Works of Lincoln, 4: 506—07, 517— 18; The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 vols. (Washington, D.C., 1880—1902). ser. I, 3 466—67; Gerteis, From Contraband to Freedman, 16.
“ The removal of General Butler.46Benjamin Franklin Butler (1818—93) was one of the most famous “political generals" of the Civil War. A native of New Hampshire and a graduate of Colby College. Butler established prosperous law practices in both Lowell and Boston, Massachusetts. An active Democratic politician. Butler attended his party's 1860 national convention, where he supported Jefferson Davis for the presidential nomination. Later that year he unsuccessfully ran for governor of Massachusetts on a Democratic ticket pledged to John Breckinridge for president. As a brigadier general of the Massachusetts militia, Butler won national prominence for leading the troops that pacified pro-Confederate Baltimore and thereby reopened Washington's communications with the North. While commander of Union forces at Fortress Monroe in Virginia in the summer of 1861, he began the policy of sheltering runaway slaves within his lines as “contrabands of war." Lincoln removed Butler from command of Fortress Monroe in October 1861 and sent him to recruit soldiers in New England. While military governor of New Orleans in 1862, Butler alienated the conquered population and embarrassed Washington with his “Order No. 28," which threatened that Southern women who demonstrated contempt for Union troops would be treated as prostitutes. An incompetent field commander, Butler was finally relieved when Lincoln's reelection made his political support for the administration no longer crucial. After the war he served six terms as a Republican congressman and was a leader in the impeachment effort against Andrew Johnson. Returning to the Democratic party, Butler was elected governor of Massachusetts in 1882 and two years later ran as the presidential candidate of the Greenback-Peoples' party. Richard S. West. Jr., Lincoln's Scapegoat General: A Life of Benjamin Butler, 1818—1893 (Boston, 1965); Robert Werlich, "Beast Butler": Biography of Union Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler (Washington, DC, 1962); ACAB, 1:477—78; NCAB, 1: 121—24.
" The removal of Commodore Stringham.47Silas Horton Stringham (1798—1876) was born in Middletown, New York, and joined the U.S. Navy as a midshipman in 1809. Stringham saw combat aboard ships in the war with the Barbary States, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War. His advice to dispatch a naval expedition to relieve Fort Sumter during the secession crisis was not heeded until too late to prevent the garrison's surrender. When hostilities commenced, Stringham was made commander of the naval forces blockading Confederate ports on the Atlantic coast. In August 1861 he led the fleet that captured Fort Hatteras from the Confederates, the first important Union naval victory of the war. When the Navy Department refused to permit a further advance into Pamlico Sound and instead criticized the porousness of the blockade, Stringham asked to be relieved of his command. For the remainder of the war he was in charge of the Boston Navy Yard. Rowena Reed, Combined Operations in the Civil War (Annapolis, Md., 1978), 12-19; ACAB, 5 : 719—20; NCAB, 2: 101-02; DAB, 18: 139—40.
" The recent proclamation of General Sherman.48The son of a Rhode Island farmer, Thomas West Sherman (1813—79) walked to Washington, D.C., at age eighteen and persuaded President Andrew Jackson to appoint him to West Point. After his graduation in 1836. Sherman served in the Second Seminole War and the Mexican War and was given numerous garrison assignments. He commanded the land forces that participated in the successful capture of Port Royal, South Carolina, in October 1861, and, after being transferred to the West in 1862, led troops in campaigns in Mississippi and Louisiana. He remained in the army until his retirement in 1870. Douglass alludes to Sherman’s proclamation of 8 November 1861 addressed to the people of South Carolina, which included the statement: “The dictates of a duty which, under these circumstances, I owe to a great sovereign State, and to a proud and hospitable people, among whom I have passed some of the pleasantest days of my life, prompt me to proclaim that we have come amongst you with no feelings of personal animosity; no desire to harm your citizens, destroy your property, or interfere with any of your lawful rights or your social and local institutions, beyond what the causes herein brieﬂy alluded to may render unavoidable." OR, ser. 1, 6 :45; Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Blue: Lives of Union Commanders (Baton Rouge, 1964), 440-41; ACAB, 5: 502; NCAB, 8: 89—90; DAB, 17: 92-93.
Remarks on the presidents letter to Fremont.
I have been often asked since the war began why I am not at the South battling for freedom. My answer is with the Government. It wants men, but it does not yet rank me or my race with men. Let the fact go down to [history]49Crossed out in ms. posterity, in vindication of my race, if not in condemnation of
the Government, that reasons of state, such as did not control the policy of general Jackson at New Orleans, nor the fathers of the Republic, have thus far compelled the Republican party now in power, to deny the black man the honor of bearing arms against slaveholding rebels, for the preservation of the Government.
One situation only, has been offered me, and that is the offer of a body servant to a col[.]: I would not despise that, if I could by that means be of any service to the cause of impartial freedom. In that temple their is no seat too low for me.
But one thing I have a right to ask when I am required to march to the battle field, and that is, that I shall have a country or the hope of a country under me, a government that recognizes my manhood around me, and a ﬂag of freedom waving over me!
We have recently held a solemn fast and have offered up innumerable prayers for the deliverance of the nation from the manifold perils and calamities that surround it.50At the request of the president, Northern state officials set aside Thursday, 26 September 1861, as a day of public fasting and prayer for a Union victory and the restoration of peace. In an editorial, Douglass pronounced the national fast a poor substitute for a national war effort to abolish slavery: “The fast is not a repentance of the National Sin, but only of the consequences of that sin. We deplore the calamity which our slavery has brought upon us, but do not deplore slavery itself.” DM, 4: 531 (October 1861); New York Daily Tribune, 26 September 1861; New York Times, 26 September 1861. I say nothing against these prayers—but I know well enough that the work of making and the work of answering them, must be performed by the same hands.
If the Loyal north succeed in suppressing this foul and scandalous slaveholding rebellion, the fact will be due to the amount of wisdom and force they bring against the rebels in arms. Thus far we have shown no lack of force. A call for men is answered by halfa million.51Although estimates of their number vary, many more than 75,000 volunteers answered Lincoln's call for troops in April 1861. Horace Greeley opined that “any number that may be required will step forward as fast as they may be called for, even though it should be judged best to confront the Secessionists on their frontier with Half a Million Men." New York Daily Tribune, 17 April 1861; Bell Wiley, The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union (Indianapolis, 1952), 17—20. A call for money is answered by hundreds of millions52Douglass probably refers to the $150 million in specie loaned to the U.S. Treasury by banks in New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston between August and November 1861. Robert P. Sharkey, Money, Class, and Party: An Economic Study of Civil War and Reconstruction (Baltimore, 1959), 21-24.—and a call for prayers brings a whole nation to its alters—but still the rebellion rages—Jeff. Davis is defiant. United States ships, run the gauntlet of rebel guns—within a few miles of
Washington53In August and September 1861 the Confederates secretly constructed seven artillery batteries along six miles of the Potomac River's bank below Washington, D.C. Beginning in mid-October, these batteries attempted to interdict commerce on the river headed for the capital. Although no ships were sunk, the batteries were an embarrassment to the Federal navy, which repeatedly failed to silence them. These fortified positions and their guns had to be abandoned when the main Confederate army retreated across the Rappahannock River in March 1862. Joseph Mills Hanson, Bull Run Remembers . . . . The History, Traditions and Landmarks of the Manassas (Bull Run) Campaigns Before Washington, 1861—1862 (Manassas, Va., 1953), 41—78; Reed, Combined Operations, 98, 112—19.—and the rebels are quietly talking of going into winter quarters.54At a strategy conference at Centreville, Virginia, President Jefferson Davis and Confederate generals Joseph E. Johnston. Pierre G. T. Beauregard, and Gustavus W. Smith rejected proposals for an invasion of the North that fall. Soon after that meeting, the Confederate army of 32,000 under Johnston withdrew from Fairfax Court House, Virginia, to Centreville and began construction of fortifications and housing for winter quarters. The Confederates remained at their Centreville camp until 9 March 1862. when they retreated across the Rappahannock River in anticipation of a Federal offensive. Hanson, Bull Run Remembers, 36—40; Long, Civil War Day by Day, 123, 182.
What is the remedy? I answer, have done, forever, with the wild and guilty fantasy that man can hold property in man.
Have done with the idea, that [this]55Crossed out in ms. old Union is either desirable or possible.
Accept the incontestible truth, of the irrepressible conﬂict—which is now emphasized by all the horrors of rebellion.
Banish from your minds the last lingering shadow of a hope—that your Government can ever rest secure on a mixed bases of freedom and slavery. Lay the ax at the root of the tree56Douglass paraphrases Matt. 3: 10.—and hurl the accursed slave system in to the pit from whence it came.
The pretense that the constitution stands in the way of [our]57Crossed out in ms. abolition plan for putting [?] rebels is but a miserable pretense. Slavery has never been large Enough to get itself named in the Constitution; but if every line and syllable of the Constitution contained an explicit prohibition of the abolition of slavery, the right of the nation to abolish slavery would still exist in full force—since the right to preserve itself from dissolution is before all Laws:—and is the foundation and authority of all laws, and government.
But will our government at last arrive at this conclusion[?] That depends much upon the virtue of the North—and much more upon the villany of the South: and I confess to a little more hope from the latter than from the Former.
We are fighting not only a wicked and determined foe, but a desperate and maddened one. We are fighting our former political masters who are enraged at the thought of our resistence[,] men who have ruled us for sixty years. If hard pressed as they will be—they will break through all the restraints of civilized warfare—and compel the government to strike the blow for freed[om?].
Events are greater than either party to the conflict, and rules both.
The first flash of rebel powder against the starving Garrison at Sumpter—instantly change[d] the whole policy of the nation. Until then the North in all its parties—and parlours was found dreaming of compromise:—a peaceable adjustment, state “sovereignty" [,] rights of “secession,” “no coercion”—repeal personal Liberty Laws, call national convention, change the constitution—ﬂitted in the fevered brain, and fell from the quivering lip of the northern people, and from our statesmen—cowering before the apprehended calamities of disunion, and the threats of civil war. These dreams have vanished—before the onward progress and all bending power of events.
To night, with saints and angels, with the glorious army of martyrs, of whom the world was not worthy—the brave spirit of John Brown, serenely looks from his eternal rest, beholding his guilty murderers in torments of their own kindling—and the faith for which he nobly died, rapidly becoming the saving faith of the Nation. Two years ago Young John Brown58John Brown, Jr. was hunted in Ohio like a fellon. To day he is a captain under the broad seal of the U.S. Government.
Humanity sweeps onward. Where to day the martyr stands—
On tomorrow cr[o]uches Judas with the silver in his hands.
Far in front the cross stands ready, and the crackling faggots burn
While the hooting mob of yesterday with silent awe return
To glean up the scattered ashes in historys golden urn.59Douglass quotes the fourteenth stanza of James Russell Lowell's “The Present Crisis," Writings of James Russell Lowell, 7: 183.
Only one brief year ago and this great city, the Athens of America60The nickname “Athens of America" became associated with Boston because its boosters frequently compared their city's educational and cultural facilities to those of the ancient Greek city-state. Other cities aspiring to that sobriquet included Annapolis, Maryland; Crawfordsville, Indiana; and Iowa City, Iowa. Joseph N. Kane and Gerald L. Alexander, Nicknames and Sobriquets of U.S. Cities and States (Metuchen, N.J., 1970), 245.—
was convulsed by the rage of a howling mob madly trampling upon the great Law of Liberty and progress incited thereto—by a fanatical devotion to the Law of Slavery. lt blocked your streets, It shut up your halls. It defied your Government, and madly clamored for the blood of one whose name adds lustres to the very name of Boston.61Douglass refers to the events of 3 December 1860, when he and other abolitionists attempted to hold meetings in Boston to commemorate the first anniversary of John Brown's execution. A mob harrassed Wendell Phillips on his way home from the evening meeting. Where is that mob to[-]night?
Some of them are doubtless in the regiment from Mass[achusetts] which recently marched to Virginia singing hymns to the memory of John Brown.
Where are the men who incited that mob? urging upon the government to finish the very work which John Brown nobly began.
Two short years ago—as the old man, stretched on his pallet of straw, covered with blood, marred by sabre gashes in the hands of his enemies, not expecting to recover from his wounds—among those who came to torment him in this dark hour of distress, and to berate him for the awful sins of treason and rebellion, was one Senator Mason62Senator James Murray Mason of Virginia, along with several other congressmen and Governor Henry A. Wise, interviewed John Brown at Harpers Ferry on the day following his capture. Oates, To Purge This Land, 302—06. of Virginia: Where to night is this haughty and supercillious Senator? In your own fort Warren! What is his crime? treason and rebellion. I need not ring the changes on this point.
Nothing stands to day where it stood yesterday. The choice which life presents, is ever more, between growth and decay, perfection and deterioration. There is no standing still, nor can be. Advance or recede, occupy or give place—are the stern imperative alternatives self existing and self enforcing law of life, from the cradle to the grave.
He who despairs of progress despises the hope of the world—and shuts himself out from the chief significance of existence—and is dead while he lives.
Great nature herself—whether viewed in connection or a part from man, is in its manifold operations, a picture of progress & a constant rebuke to moral stagnation of conservatism.
Conceive of life without progress and sun|,] moon and stars instantly halt in their courses. The restless ocean no longer heaves on high his proud dashing billows. The lightening hides itself in sombre sky. The tempest
dies on the mountains,—and silent night, dark, shapeless, sightless, voiceless settles down upon the mind, in a ghastly as frightful as gloom as the darkness of Byron’s painting.
But on the other hand how glorious is nature in action. We get but an outside view, and while still amazed and curious. On goes the great mystery of mysteries—Creating, unfolding, expanding, renewing, changing perpetually, putting on new forms, new colours, issuing new sounds, ﬁlling the world with new perfumes, and spreading out to the eye and heart, unending scenes of freshness and beauty.
It gives us a thousand flowers in a single fruit and a thousand eggs for a single fish—or bird, and yet earthl ,] sea and air overﬂow, with all pervading and never resting life.
In addition to the progressive lessons taught in the physical world, man has one written down in his own constitution, superior to all others.
Other animals only change the conditions of their existence in obedience to great natural causes over which they have no control. But the sublime mission of man is the discovery of truth—and all conquering resistance to all adverse circumstances whether moral or physical.
By the cultivation of his intellect, by the developement of his natural resources, by under standing the science of his own relations to the world, man has the marvellous power of enlargering the boundaries of his own existence.
Material progress, may for a time be separated from moral progress. But the two cannot be permanently devorced.
It is natural, when the demand for bread, and clothing and shelter—has been complied with, man should begin to think and reason. When this is done, let, all the subtle enemies of the welfare of man, in the protean shapes of oppression, Superstition, priestcraft and Slavery—plainly read their doom.
Steam and lightening and all manner of labor saving machinery have come up to the help of moral truth as well as physical welfare.
The Increased facilities of locommotion, the growing inter communication of distant nations, the rapid transmission of intelligence over the globe—the world wide ramifications of commerce—bringing together the knowledge, the skill, and the mental power of the world—cannot but dispel prejudice[,] dissolve the granite barriers of arbitrary power, bring the world into, peace and unity, and at last crown the world with just[ice,] Liberty, and brotherly kindness.
In every lightening coine[?] may be recognized a reformer. In every
bar of rail road iron a missionary—In every locommotive a herald of progress—the startling scream of the Engine—and the small ticking sound of the telegraph are a like phrophecies of hope to the philanthropist, and warnings to the systems of slavery, superstition and oppression to get themselves away to the mirky shades of barbarism.