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D[aniel] Plumb to Frederick Douglass, February 14, 1854



NEW YORK, Feb. 14, 1854.

MR. EDITOR:—Whoever read Mr. Mitchel's
speech at the dinner given him on his arri-
val in San Francisco, in which, while speak-
ing of the spirit of Irishmen, he contempt-
uously and invidiously said, "we are not
negroes," could not be much surprised to
hear him say in the Citizen, "We deny that
it is a crime, or a wrong, or even a pecca-
dillo, to hold slaves, to buy slaves, to sell
slaves, to keep slaves to their work, by flog-
ging or other needful coercion;"—or that he
should farther utter himself in the following
bold confession:—"We, for our part, wish we
had a good plantation well stocked with healthy
negroes in Alabama

Mr. Mitchel, it seems, is the recognized rep-
resentative of Irish ideas of liberty—the
campion of Irish emancipation. He can
denounce what he calls English despotism,
and urge resistance to it unto death; but
how selfish, how heartless he must be in all
this, when he can pour contempt upon a
whole people because not of his own or some
kindred race, and laugh at their sufferings,
one hour's endurance or which to quote the
sentiment of another, is greater than whole
ages of that which "the Irish" rose in re-
bellion to resist. Nay, when he not only
can trifle with their agonies, but can confess
himself a "Legree," ready to own and be-
come the driver of a gang of plantation
slaves, and lash them into subjection to his
tyrannous will.

Is it by such mock champions of freedom
that the cause of human liberty is to be ad-
vanced, or even Irish independence to be
achieved? Let the editors and supporters
of the Citizen know, and let all men know,
that by the immutably fixed law of God,
that ultimately everywhere assert their au-
thority in the social system, no people or na-
tion shall ever achieve for itself the perma-
nent blessings of liberty and beneficent gov-
ernment where the blow is not struck in the
name and on the behalf of universal human-
ity. For in the success of any such partial
and selfish struggle, the spirit of despotism
would still ra[n]kle in the bosom of the chief-
tains who would not fail to find subjects in
their own country and nation on whom to
practice it, and thus lay the foundation and
furnish the cause for renewed struggles and
fresh revolutions, in which the yoke to be
broken would not be a foreign one, but one
laid upon the necks of the people by their
own traitorous leaders.

The man who could own "a plantation
well stocked with slaves," and "flog" his
victims into obedience, nothwithstanding the
lessons of sympathy for the oppressed which
his own sufferings in exile should have
taught him, is a tyrant by nature, and would
as soon kick and curse a gang of Irish hod-
carriers, if they were in his power, as drive
and lash a gang of slaves. Woe to the
masses of Ireland when such champions
shall claim the right to rule them because
they have been instrumental in terminating
the reign of British authority in their land.


"We have sprung from a race of heroes
and demi-gods;" "we are not negroes," says
Mr. Mitchel in his San Francisco
speech.—I would ask what the "negroes" have to
loose in a comparison with the Irish
race?—Can an equal number, promiscuously taken
form the Irish at home or in this country
show to the same advantage with the free
people of color in the United States in do-
mestic order and happiness, in intelligence,
education, eloquence, oratory, or moral
worth? For every Mitchel or Meagher
among the Irish population of this country,
I will produce from among the colored peo-
ple a dozen Douglasses, Wards, McCune
Smiths, Reasons, Bemans, Allens, &c, &c,
all of whom for intelligence, education, writ-
ten composition, and eloquent speech shall
be equal, and some of them superior to those
Irish leaders just named; while, in addition,
let it be noted, those colored men referred
to are giving daily proof of a comprehensive
love of liberty, and a world-wide philan-
thropy, of which the others are manifestly
and vitally deficient.

And then, as to the bravery of the Irish
nation. They "are not negroes." It is true
there have been rebellions in Ireland, and
some brave men have perished in her behalf.
But, as a people, they have lacked unity and
a steadfast and indomitable energy; and
hence, Irish independence is as far from
them to-day as ever. In contrast, see the
blacks of Hayti, led on by a slave, triumph-
ing against the arms of a mighty nation, and
establishing a government of their own,
which they have perpetuated now for more
than half a century. Verily, "we Irish-
men are not negroes."

By way of conclusion, it may be said that
Ireland owes not her degradation so much
to British influence and control, as to her
own supineness and the deadly incubus of an
ecclesiastical system of her own choosing,
whose chief elements are a priestly despot-
ism and a withering superstition, which
have served to emasculate the
nation.—Scotland is under the authority of the Eng-
lish throne; but she holds her position more
as an equal than a vassal. If she is in
union with England, she has, herself, dic-
tated the terms of that union. And why
has not Ireland, with a better soil, larger
natural resources and a better position, done
as much? The fault is mostly her own;
and neither her Emmets, nor her Smith O'-
Brians, nor her Mitchels, nor her Meaghers
will be able to emancipate her till her peo-
ple have first abolished spiritual despotism,
asserted the rights of conscience, and avail-
ed themselves of the resources already with-
in their reach. Some few of her more tal-
ented and ambitious sons may start up, from
time to time, with the nationalized cry of
Liberty upon their lips, and prate of the
ancient "heroes and demi-gods" of their
race, and self-complacently proclaim that
"they are not negroes;" but American negroes
shall be admitted to all the franchises of the
government, while Ireland, clinging to her
mummeries, her superstitions, and her
priests, shall remain a vassal and a mendi-
cant among the nations of the earth.



Plumb, Daniel


February 14, 1854


D[aniel] Plumb to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick DouglassP, 17 February 1854. Decries John Mitchel’s infamous speech given upon arrival in the United States; argues against proslavery doctrines pronounced by Mitchel.


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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