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Alpha to Frederick Douglass, September 6, 1853


ROCHESTER, Sept. 6th, 1853.

DEAR DOUGLASS:—I perceive that your
old friends of the Liberator and Standard
have, of late, wonderfully changed their tone
towards you. I was led to inquire what
could be the cause of this change. I have
looked upon you as an earnest and able de-
fender of the anti slavery cause. You were, for
a number of years, an able advocate of Gar-
rison's peculiar views of anti-slavery action.
During all this time, you stood high in the
estimation of Garrison and his party. But
when, as I believe, from honest conviction,
you advocated the propriety of carrying your
anti-slavery to the ballot box, their tone be-
came altered. Instead of honeyed words of
commendation, maledictions in abundance
are poured out. According to the philoso-
phy of these gentlemen, no man has a right
to change his opinion; or if he changes at
all, he must wait to see in what position
Messrs. Garrison, Phillips & Co. are. Is
this manly? Is this manganimous? Has
Garrison himself never changed his views
on political action? What did he mean
when he said years ago, "We maintain
that there are, at the present time, the
highest obligations resting on the people of
the free States to remove slavery by moral and


political action, as prescribed in the constitu-
tion of the United States?" In this sentence
he urges the duty of political action, and
acknowledges the power and propriety of
acting under the constitution. What is his
present position? The very reverse of all
this. No greater sin could be committed
than to vote at all under the constitution.—Is this the gentleman who never changes his
opinion? Is this the gentleman who is so
liberal in his censure of those who act as he
would have them act in 1833? He then
thought that political action under the con-
stitution was imperative and binding on ev-
ery friend of liberty. Now every man is a
traitor to liberty who uses his political fran-
chise. How can you always be in company
with those who are thus given to such
doubling and tergiversation? You had bet-
ter, my friend, continue in the consistent
course you are now pursuing, and follow the
leadings of your own convictions of duty.

You have spent too many precious years
of your life in endeavoring to prove what is
particularly gratifying to slaveholders, and
the pro-slavery office seekers of our nation,
viz: that the constitution is a pro-slavery
document. You may rely upon it that no
course is more gratifying to them. This I
have repeatedly witnessed when debates have
taken place on this topic. When the consti-
tution has been pronounced with triumph-
and emphasis a pro-slavery document, every
Hunker Democrat and Hunker Whig in the
audience, have shouted "Amen" at the top


of their voice. And what has been exceed-
ingly humiliating to a true and discriminat-
ing abolitionist, such applause has been very
acceptable to the speaker, although it has
come from the tainted breath of those who
are wading knee deep in political corrup-

I have thus freely remarked on one ob-
jection, which the Boston school of anti-sla-
very philosophers are urging against you.—On some other occasion, I will touch upon
another topic.

I remain your friend,





September 6, 1853


Alpha to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick DouglassP, 9 September 1853. Defends Douglass’s new views regarding the antislavery nature of the Constitution; encourages him to maintain his new position.


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


Frederick Douglass' Paper (Rochester, N.Y.) 1851-18??



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