Frederick Douglass
Charles Waddell Chesnutt

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Charles Chesnutt

The Beacon biographies of eminent Americans. Includes bibliographical
references (p.).


Frederick Douglass lived so long, and played so conspicuous a part on
the world's stage, that it would be impossible, in a work of the
size of this, to do more than touch upon the salient features of his
career, to suggest the respects in which he influenced the course of
events in his lifetime, and to epitomize for the readers of another
generation the judgment of his contemporaries as to his genius and his

Douglass's fame as an orator has long been secure. His position as the
champion of an oppressed race, and at the same time an example of its
possibilities, was, in his own generation, as picturesque as it
was unique; and his life may serve for all time as an incentive
to aspiring souls who would fight the battles and win the love of
mankind. The average American of to-day who sees, when his attention
is called to it, and deplores, if he be a thoughtful and just man,
the deep undertow of race prejudice that retards the progress of the
colored people of our own generation, cannot, except by reading the
painful records of the past, conceive of the mental and spiritual
darkness to which slavery, as the inexorable condition of its
existence, condemned its victims and, in a less measure, their
oppressors, or of the blank wall of proscription and scorn by which
free people of color were shut up in a moral and social Ghetto, the
gates of which have yet not been entirely torn down.

From this night of slavery Douglass emerged, passed through the limbo
of prejudice which he encountered as a freeman, and took his place in
history. "As few of the world's great men have ever had so checkered
and diversified a career," says Henry Wilson, "so it may at least be
plausibly claimed that no man represents in himself more conflicting
ideas and interests. His life is, in itself, an epic which finds few
to equal it in the realms of either romance or reality." It was, after
all, no misfortune for humanity that Frederick Douglass felt the iron
hand of slavery; for his genius changed the drawbacks of color and
condition into levers by which he raised himself and his people.

The materials for this work have been near at hand, though there is
a vast amount of which lack of space must prevent the use.
Acknowledgment is here made to members of the Douglass family for aid
in securing the photograph from which the frontispiece is reproduced.

The more the writer has studied the records of Douglass's life, the
more it has appealed to his imagination and his heart. He can claim no
special qualification for this task, unless perhaps it be a profound
and in some degree a personal sympathy with every step of Douglass's
upward career. Belonging to a later generation, he was only
privileged to see the man and hear the orator after his life-work was
substantially completed, but often enough then to appreciate
something of the strength and eloquence by which he impressed his
contemporaries. If by this brief sketch the writer can revive among
the readers of another generation a tithe of the interest that
Douglass created for himself when he led the forlorn hope of his race
for freedom and opportunity, his labor will be amply repaid.

Charles W. Chesnutt

Cleveland, October, 1899



Frederick Douglass was born at Tuckahoe, near Easton, Talbot County,


Was sent to Baltimore to live with a relative of his master.


_March._ Was taken to St. Michaels, Maryland, to live again with his


_January._ Was sent to live with Edward Covey, slave-breaker, with
whom he spent the year.


Hired to William Freeland. Made an unsuccessful attempt to escape from
slavery, Was sent to Baltimore to learn the ship-calkers trade.


_May_. Hired his own time and worked at his trade.

_September 3_. Escaped from slavery and went to New York City. Married
Miss Anna Murray. Went to New Bedford, Massachusetts. Assumed the name
of "Douglass."


Attended anti-slavery convention at New Bedford and addressed the
meeting. Was employed as agent of the Massachusetts Anti-slavery


Took part in Rhode Island campaign against the Dorr constitution.
Lectured on slavery. Moved to Lynn, Massachusetts.


Took part in the famous "One Hundred Conventions" of the New England
Anti-slavery Society.


Lectured with Pillsbury, Foster, and others.


Published _Frederick Douglass's Narrative_.


Visited Great Britain and Ireland. Remained in Europe two years,
lecturing on slavery and other subjects. Was presented by English
friends with money to purchase his freedom and to establish a


Returned to the United States. Moved with his family to Rochester, New
York. Established the _North Star_, subsequently renamed _Frederick
Douglass's Paper_. Visited John Brown at Springfield, Massachusetts.


Lectured on slavery and woman suffrage.


Edited newspaper. Lectured against slavery. Assisted the escape of
fugitive slaves.


_May 7._ Attended meeting of Anti-slavery Society at New York City.
Running debate with Captain Rynders.


Supported the Free Soil party. Elected delegate from Rochester to Free
Soil convention at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Supported John P. Hale for
the Presidency.


Visited Harriet Beecher Stowe at Andover, Massachusetts, with
reference to industrial school for colored youth.


Opposed repeal of Missouri Compromise.

_June 12._ Delivered commencement address at Western Reserve College,
Hudson, Ohio.


Published _My Bondage and My Freedom_. _March_. Addressed the New York


Supported Fremont, candidate of the Republican party.


Established _Douglass's Monthly_. Entertained John Brown at Rochester.


_August 20_. Visited John Brown at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

_May 12 [October]._ Went to Canada to avoid arrest for alleged
complicity in the John Brown raid.

_November 12._ Sailed from Quebec for England.

Lectured and spoke in England and Scotland for six months.


Returned to the United States. Supported Lincoln for the Presidency.


Lectured and spoke in favor of the war and against slavery.


Assisted in recruiting Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts
colored regiments. Invited to visit President Lincoln.


Supported Lincoln for re-election.


Was active in procuring the franchise for the freedmen.

_September._ Elected delegate from Rochester to National Loyalists'
Convention at Philadelphia.

1869 [1870]

Moved to Washington, District of Columbia. Established [Edited and
then bought] the _New National Era_.


Appointed secretary of the Santo Domingo Commission by President


Appointed councillor of the District of Columbia. [Moved family there
after a fire (probably arson) destroyed their Rochester home and
Douglass's newspaper files.] Elected presidential elector of the State
of New York, and chosen by the electoral college to take the vote to


Delivered address at unveiling of Lincoln statue at Washington.


Appointed Marshal of the District of Columbia by President Hayes.


Visited his old home in Maryland and met his old master.


Bust of Douglass placed in Sibley Hall, of Rochester University. Spoke
against the proposed negro exodus from the South.


Appointed recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia.


_January._ Published _Life and Times of Frederick Douglass_, the third
and last of his autobiographies. _August 4._ Mrs. Frederick Douglass


_February 6._ Attended funeral of Wendell Phillips. _February 9._
Attended memorial meeting and delivered eulogy on Phillips. Married
Miss Helen Pitts.


_May 20._ Lectured on John Brown at Music Hall, Boston.

_September 11._ Attended a dinner given in his honor by the Wendell
Phillips Club, Boston.

_September._ Sailed for Europe.

Visited Great Britain, France, Italy, Greece, and Egypt, 1886-87.


Made a tour of the Southern States.


Appointed United States minister resident and consul-general to the
Republic of Hayti and _charge d'affaires_ to Santo Domingo.


_September 22._ Addressed abolition reunion at Boston.


Resigned the office of minister to Hayti.


Acted as commissioner for Hayti at World's Columbian Exposition.


_February 20._ Frederick Douglass died at his home on Anacostia
Heights, near Washington, District of Columbia.

In a few places in the text of _Frederick Douglass_, bracketed words
have been inserted to indicate possible typographical errors, other
unclear or misleading passages in the 1899 original edition, and
identifications that were not needed in 1899 but may be needed in the
twenty-first century.


If it be no small task for a man of the most favored antecedents and
the most fortunate surroundings to rise above mediocrity in a great
nation, it is surely a more remarkable achievement for a man of the
very humblest origin possible to humanity in any country in any age of
the world, in the face of obstacles seemingly insurmountable, to win
high honors and rewards, to retain for more than a generation the
respect of good men in many lands, and to be deemed worthy of
enrolment among his country's great men. Such a man was Frederick
Douglass, and the example of one who thus rose to eminence by sheer
force of character and talents that neither slavery nor caste
proscription could crush must ever remain as a shining illustration
of the essential superiority of manhood to environment. Circumstances
made Frederick Douglass a slave, but they could not prevent him from
becoming a freeman and a leader among mankind.

The early life of Douglass, as detailed by himself from the platform
in vigorous and eloquent speech, and as recorded in the three volumes
written by himself at different periods of his career, is perhaps the
completest indictment of the slave system ever presented at the bar of
public opinion. Fanny Kemble's _Journal of a Residence on a Georgian
Plantation_, kept by her in the very year of Douglass's escape from
bondage, but not published until 1863, too late to contribute anything
to the downfall of slavery, is a singularly clear revelation of
plantation life from the standpoint of an outsider entirely unbiased
by American prejudice. _Frederick Douglass's Narrative_ is the same
story told from the inside. They coincide in the main facts; and in
the matter of detail, like the two slightly differing views of a
stereoscopic picture, they bring out into bold relief the real
character of the peculiar institution. _Uncle Tom's Cabin_ lent to
the structure of fact the decorations of humor, a dramatic plot, and
characters to whose fate the touch of creative genius gave a living
interest. But, after all, it was not Uncle Tom, nor Topsy, nor Miss
Ophelia, nor Eliza, nor little Eva that made the book the power it
proved to stir the hearts of men, but the great underlying tragedy
then already rapidly approaching a bloody climax.

Frederick Douglass was born in February, l8l7,--as nearly as the date
could be determined in after years, when it became a matter of public
interest,--at Tuckahoe, near Easton, Talbot County, on the eastern
shore of Maryland, a barren and poverty-stricken district, which
possesses in the birth of Douglass its sole title to distinction. His
mother was a negro slave, tall, erect, and well-proportioned, of a
deep black and glossy complexion, with regular features, and manners
of a natural dignity and sedateness. Though a field hand and compelled
to toil many hours a day, she had in some mysterious way learned to
read, being the only person of color in Tuckahoe, slave or free, who
possessed that accomplishment. His father was a white man. It was in
the nature of things that in after years attempts should be made to
analyze the sources of Douglass's talent, and that the question should
be raised whether he owed it to the black or the white half of his
mixed ancestry. But Douglass himself, who knew his own mother and
grandmother, ascribed such powers as he possessed to the negro half of
his blood; and, as to it certainly he owed the experience which gave
his anti-slavery work its peculiar distinction and value, he doubtless
believed it only fair that the credit for what he accomplished should
go to those who needed it most and could justly be proud of it. He
never knew with certainty who his white father was, for the exigencies
of slavery separated the boy from his mother before the subject of
his paternity became of interest to him; and in after years his white
father never claimed the honor, which might have given him a place in

Douglass's earliest recollections centered around the cabin of his
grandmother, Betsey Bailey, who seems to have been something of a
privileged character on the plantation, being permitted to live with
her husband, Isaac, in a cabin of their own, charged with only the
relatively light duty of looking after a number of young children,
mostly the offspring of her own five daughters, and providing for her
own support.

It is impossible in a work of the scope of this to go into very
elaborate detail with reference to this period of Douglass's life,
however interesting it might be. The real importance of his life to us
of another generation lies in what he accomplished toward the world's
progress, which he only began to influence several years after his
escape from slavery. Enough ought to be stated, however, to trace
his development from slave to freeman, and his preparation for the
platform where he secured his hearing and earned his fame.

Douglass was born the slave of one Captain Aaron Anthony, a man of
some consequence in eastern Maryland, the manager or chief clerk of
one Colonel Lloyd, the head for that generation of an old, exceedingly
wealthy, and highly honored family in Maryland, the possessor of a
stately mansion and one of the largest and most fertile plantations in
the State. Captain Anthony, though only the satellite of this great
man, himself owned several farms and a number of slaves. At the age of
seven Douglass was taken from the cabin of his grandmother at Tuckahoe
to his masters residence on Colonel Lloyd's plantation.

Up to this time he had never, to his recollection, seen his mother.
All his impressions of her were derived from a few brief visits made
to him at Colonel Lloyd's plantation, most of them at night. These
fleeting visits of the mother were important events in the life of the
child, now no longer under the care of his grandmother, but turned
over to the tender mercies of his master's cook, with whom he does not
seem to have been a favorite. His mother died when he was eight or
nine years old. Her son did not see her during her illness, nor learn
of it until after her death. It was always a matter of grief to him
that he did not know her better, and that he could not was one of the
sins of slavery that he never forgave.

On Colonel Lloyd's plantation Douglass spent four years of the slave
life of which his graphic description on the platform stirred humane
hearts to righteous judgment of an unrighteous institution. It is
enough to say that this lad, with keen eyes and susceptible feelings,
was an eye-witness of all the evils to which slavery gave birth. Its
extremes of luxury and misery could be found within the limits of one
estate. He saw the field hand driven forth at dawn to labor until
dark. He beheld every natural affection crushed when inconsistent with
slavery, or warped and distorted to fit the necessities and promote
the interests of the institution. He heard the unmerited strokes of
the lash on the backs of others, and felt them on his own. In the wild
songs of the slaves he read, beneath their senseless jargon or their
fulsome praise of "old master," the often unconscious note of grief
and despair. He perceived, too, the debasing effects of slavery upon
master and slave alike, crushing all semblance of manhood in the
one, and in the other substituting passion for judgment, caprice for
justice, and indolence and effeminacy for the more virile virtues of
freemen. Doubtless the gentle hand of time will some time spread
the veil of silence over this painful past; but, while we are still
gathering its evil aftermath, it is well enough that we do not forget
the origin of so many of our civic problems.

When Douglass was ten years old, he was sent from the Lloyd plantation
to Baltimore, to live with one Hugh Auld, a relative of his master.
Here he enjoyed the high privilege, for a slave, of living in the
house with his master's family. In the capacity of house boy it was
his duty to run errands and take care of a little white boy, Tommy
Auld, the son of his mistress for the time being, Mrs. Sophia Auld.
Mrs. Auld was of a religious turn of mind; and, from hearing her
reading the Bible aloud frequently, curiosity prompted the boy to ask
her to teach him to read. She complied, and found him an apt pupil,
until her husband learned of her unlawful and dangerous conduct, and
put an end to the instruction. But the evil was already done, and the
seed thus sown brought forth fruit in the after career of the orator
and leader of men. The mere fact that his master wished to prevent his
learning made him all the more eager to acquire knowledge. In after
years, even when most bitter in his denunciation of the palpable evils
of slavery, Douglass always acknowledged the debt he owed to this good
lady who innocently broke the laws and at the same time broke the
chains that held a mind in bondage.

Douglass lived in the family of Hugh Auld at Baltimore for seven
years. During this time the achievement that had the greatest
influence upon his future was his learning to read and write. His
mistress had given him a start. His own efforts gained the rest. He
carried in his pocket a blue-backed _Webster's Spelling Book_, and, as
occasion offered, induced his young white playmates, by the bribes
of childhood, to give him lessons in spelling. When he was about
thirteen, he began to feel deeply the moral yoke of slavery and to
seek for knowledge of the means to escape it. One book seems to have
had a marked influence upon his life at this epoch. He obtained,
somehow, a copy of _The Columbian Orator_, containing some of the
choicest masterpieces of English oratory, in which he saw liberty
praised and oppression condemned; and the glowing periods of Pitt and
Fox and Sheridan and our own Patrick Henry stirred to life in the
heart of this slave boy the genius for oratory which did not burst
forth until years afterward. The worldly wisdom of denying to slaves
the key to knowledge is apparent when it is said that Douglass first
learned from a newspaper that there were such people as abolitionists,
who were opposed to human bondage and sought to make all men free.
At about this same period Douglass's mind fell under religious
influences. He was converted, professed faith in Jesus Christ, and
began to read the Bible. He had dreamed of liberty before; he now
prayed for it, and trusted in God. But, with the shrewd common sense
which marked his whole life and saved it from shipwreck in more
than one instance, he never forgot that God helps them that help
themselves, and so never missed an opportunity to acquire the
knowledge that would prepare him for freedom and give him the means of
escape from slavery.

Douglass had learned to read, partly from childish curiosity and the
desire to be able to do what others around him did; but it was with a
definite end in view that he learned to write. By the slave code
it was unlawful for a slave to go beyond the limits of his own
neighborhood without the written permission of his master. Douglass's
desire to write grew mainly out of the fact that in order to escape
from bondage, which he had early determined to do, he would probably
need such a "pass," as this written permission was termed, and could
write it himself if he but knew how. His master for the time being
kept a ship-yard, and in this and neighboring establishments of
the same kind the boy spent much of his time. He noticed that the
carpenters, after dressing pieces of timber, marked them with certain
letters to indicate their positions in the vessel. By asking questions
of the workmen he learned the names of these letters and their
significance. He got up writing matches with sticks upon the ground
with the little white boys, copied the italics in his spelling-book,
and in the secrecy of the attic filled up all the blank spaces of his
young master's old copy-books. In time he learned to write, and thus
again demonstrated the power of the mind to overleap the bounds that
men set for it and work out the destiny to which God designs it.


It was the curious fate of Douglass to pass through almost every phase
of slavery, as though to prepare him the more thoroughly for his
future career. Shortly after he went to Baltimore, his master, Captain
Anthony, died intestate, and his property was divided between his two
children. Douglass, with the other slaves, was part of the personal
estate, and was sent for to be appraised and disposed of in the
division. He fell to the share of Mrs. Lucretia Auld, his masters
daughter, who sent him back to Baltimore, where, after a month's
absence, he resumed his life in the household of Mrs. Hugh Auld,
the sister-in-law of his legal mistress. Owing to a family
misunderstanding, he was taken, in March, 1833, from Baltimore back to
St. Michaels.

His mistress, Lucretia Auld, had died in the mean time; and the new
household in which he found himself, with Thomas Auld and his second
wife, Rowena, at its head, was distinctly less favorable to the slave
boy's comfort than the home where he had lived in Baltimore. Here he
saw hardships of the life in bondage that had been less apparent in a
large city. It is to be feared that Douglass was not the ideal slave,
governed by the meek and lowly spirit of Uncle Tom. He seems, by his
own showing, to have manifested but little appreciation of the wise
oversight, the thoughtful care, and the freedom from responsibility
with which slavery claimed to hedge round its victims, and he was
inclined to spurn the rod rather than to kiss it. A tendency to
insubordination, due partly to the freer life he had led in Baltimore,
got him into disfavor with a master easily displeased; and, not
proving sufficiently amenable to the discipline of the home
plantation, he was sent to a certain celebrated negro-breaker by the
name of Edward Covey, one of the poorer whites who, as overseers and
slave-catchers, and in similar unsavory capacities, earned a living as
parasites on the system of slavery. Douglass spent a year under Coveys
ministrations, and his life there may be summed up in his own words:
"I had neither sufficient time in which to eat nor to sleep, except on
Sundays. The overwork and the brutal chastisements of which I was the
victim, combined with that ever-gnawing and soul-destroying thought,
'I am a slave,--a slave for life,' rendered me a living embodiment of
mental and physical wretchedness."

But even all this did not entirely crush the indomitable spirit of a
man destined to achieve his own freedom and thereafter to help win
freedom for a race. In August, 1834, after a particularly atrocious
beating, which left him wounded and weak from loss of blood, Douglass
escaped the vigilance of the slave-breaker and made his way back to
his own master to seek protection. The master, who would have lost
his slave's wages for a year if he had broken the contract with
Covey before the year's end, sent Douglass back to his taskmaster.
Anticipating the most direful consequences, Douglass made the
desperate resolution to resist any further punishment at Covey's
hands. After a fight of two hours Covey gave up his attempt to whip
Frederick, and thenceforth laid hands on him no more. That Covey did
not invoke the law, which made death the punishment of the slave who
resisted his master, was probably due to shame at having been worsted
by a negro boy, or to the prudent consideration that there was no
profit to be derived from a dead negro. Strength of character,
re-enforced by strength of muscle, thus won a victory over brute force
that secured for Douglass comparative immunity from abuse during the
remaining months of his year's service with Covey.

The next year, 1835, Douglass was hired out to a Mr. William Freeland,
who lived near St. Michael's, a gentleman who did not forget justice
or humanity, so far as they were consistent with slavery, even
in dealing with bond-servants. Here Douglass led a comparatively
comfortable life. He had enough to eat, was not overworked, and found
the time to conduct a surreptitious Sunday-school, where he tried to
help others by teaching his fellow-slaves to read the Bible.


The manner of Douglass's escape from Maryland was never publicly
disclosed by him until the war had made slavery a memory and
the slave-catcher a thing of the past. It was the theory of the
anti-slavery workers of the time that the publication of the details
of escapes or rescues from bondage seldom reached the ears of those
who might have learned thereby to do likewise, but merely furnished
the master class with information that would render other escapes
more difficult and bring suspicion or punishment upon those who had
assisted fugitives. That this was no idle fear there is abundant
testimony in the annals of the period. But in later years, when there
was no longer any danger of unpleasant consequences, and when it had
become an honor rather than a disgrace to have assisted a distressed
runaway, Douglass published in detail the story of his flight. It
would not compare in dramatic interest with many other celebrated
escapes from slavery or imprisonment. He simply masqueraded as a
sailor, borrowed a sailors "protection," or certificate that he
belonged to the navy, took the train to Baltimore in the evening, and
rode in the negro car until he reached New York City. There were many
anxious moments during this journey. The "protection" he carried
described a man somewhat different from him, but the conductor did not
examine it carefully. Fear clutched at the fugitive's heart whenever
he neared a State border line. He saw several persons whom he knew;
but, if they recognized him or suspected his purpose, they made no
sign. A little boldness, a little address, and a great deal of good
luck carried him safely to his journey's end.

Douglass arrived in New York on September 4, 1838, having attained
only a few months before what would have been in a freeman his legal
majority. But, though landed in a free State, he was by no means a
free man. He was still a piece of property, and could be reclaimed
by the law's aid if his whereabouts were discovered. While local
sentiment at the North afforded a measure of protection to fugitives,
and few were ever returned to bondage compared with the number that
escaped, yet the fear of recapture was ever with them, darkening their
lives and impeding their pursuit of happiness.

But even the partial freedom Douglass had achieved gave birth to a
thousand delightful sensations. In his autobiography he describes this
dawn of liberty thus:

"A new world had opened up to me. I lived more in one day than in a
year of my slave life. I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den
of hungry lions. My chains were broken, and the victory brought me
unspeakable joy."

But one cannot live long on joy; and, while his chains were broken,
he was not beyond the echo of their clanking. He met on the streets,
within a few hours after his arrival in New York, a man of his own
color, who informed him that New York was full of Southerners at that
season of the year, and that slave-hunters and spies were numerous,
that old residents of the city were not safe, and that any recent
fugitive was in imminent danger. After this cheerful communication
Douglass's informant left him, evidently fearing that Douglass himself
might be a slave-hunting spy. There were negroes base enough to play
this role. In a sailor whom he encountered he found a friend. This
Good Samaritan took him home for the night, and accompanied him next
day to a Mr. David Ruggles, a colored man, the secretary of the New
York Vigilance Committee and an active antislavery worker. Mr. Ruggles
kept him concealed for several days, during which time the woman
Douglass loved, a free woman, came on from Baltimore; and they were
married. He had no money in his pocket, and nothing to depend upon but
his hands, which doubtless seemed to him quite a valuable possession,
as he knew they had brought in an income of several hundred dollars a
year to their former owner.

Douglass's new friends advised him to go to New Bedford,
Massachusetts, where whaling fleets were fitted out, and where he
might hope to find work at his trade of ship-calker. It was believed,
too, that he would be safer there, as the anti-slavery sentiment was
considered too strong to permit a fugitive slave's being returned to
the South.

When Douglass, accompanied by his wife, arrived in New Bedford, a
Mr. Nathan Johnson, a colored man to whom he had been recommended,
received him kindly, gave him shelter and sympathy, and lent him a
small sum of money to redeem his meagre baggage, which had been held
by the stage-driver as security for an unpaid balance of the fare to
New Bedford. In his autobiography Douglass commends Mr. Johnson for
his "noble-hearted hospitality and manly character."

In New York Douglass had changed his name in order the better to hide
his identity from any possible pursuer. Douglass's name was another
tie that bound him to his race. He has been called "Douglass" by the
writer because that was the name he took for himself, as he did his
education and his freedom; and as "Douglass" he made himself famous.
As a slave, he was legally entitled to but one name,--Frederick. From
his grandfather, Isaac Bailey, a freeman, he had derived the surname
Bailey. His mother, with unconscious sarcasm, had called the little
slave boy Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. The bearer of this
imposing string of appellations had, with a finer sense of fitness,
cut it down to Frederick Bailey. In New York he had called himself
Frederick Johnson; but, finding when he reached New Bedford that a
considerable portion of the colored population of the city already
rejoiced in this familiar designation, he fell in with the suggestion
of his host, who had been reading Scott's _Lady of the Lake_,
and traced an analogy between the runaway slave and the fugitive
chieftain, that the new freeman should call himself Douglass,
after the noble Scot of that name [Douglas]. The choice proved not
inappropriate, for this modern Douglass fought as valiantly in his own
cause and with his own weapons as ever any Douglass [Douglas] fought
with flashing steel in border foray.

Here, then, in a New England town, Douglass began the life of a
freeman, from which, relieved now of the incubus of slavery, he soon
emerged into the career for which, in the providence of God, he seemed
by his multiform experience to have been especially fitted. He did not
find himself, even in Massachusetts, quite beyond the influence of
slavery. While before the law of the State he was the equal of any
other man, caste prejudice prevented him from finding work at his
trade of calker; and he therefore sought employment as a laborer. This
he found easily, and for three years worked at whatever his hands
found to do. The hardest toil was easy to him, the heaviest burdens
were light; for the money that he earned went into his own pocket.
If it did not remain there long, he at least had the satisfaction of
spending it and of enjoying what it purchased.

During these three years he was learning the lesson of liberty and
unconsciously continuing his training for the work of an anti-slavery
agitator. He became a subscriber to the _Liberator_, each number of
which he devoured with eagerness. He heard William Lloyd Garrison
lecture, and became one of his most devoted disciples. He attended
every anti-slavery meeting in New Bedford, and now and then spoke on
the subject of slavery in humble gatherings of his own people.


In 1841 Douglass entered upon that epoch of his life which brought the
hitherto obscure refugee prominently before the public, and in which
his services as anti-slavery orator and reformer constitute his chief
claim to enduring recollection. Millions of negroes whose lives had
been far less bright than Douglass's had lived and died in slavery.
Thousands of fugitives under assumed names were winning a precarious
livelihood in the free States and trembling in constant fear of the
slave-catcher. Some of these were doing noble work in assisting others
to escape from bondage. Mr. Siebert, in his _Underground Railroad_,
mentions one fugitive slave, John Mason by name, who assisted thirteen
hundred others to escape from Kentucky. Another picturesque fugitive
was Harriet Tubman, who devoted her life to this work with a courage,
skill, and success that won her a wide reputation among the friends
of freedom. A number of free colored men in the North, a few of them
wealthy and cultivated, lent their time and their means to this cause.
But it was reserved for Douglass, by virtue of his marvellous gift of
oratory, to become pre-eminently the personal representative of his
people for a generation.

In 1841 the Massachusetts Anti-slavery Society, which had been for
some little time weakened by faction, arranged its differences, and
entered upon a campaign of unusual activity, which found expression in
numerous meetings throughout the free States, mainly in New
England. On August 15 of that year a meeting was held at Nantucket,
Massachusetts. The meeting was conducted by John A. Collins, at that
time general agent of the society, and was addressed by William Lloyd
Garrison and other leading abolitionists. Douglass had taken a holiday
and come from New Bedford to attend this convention, without the
remotest thought of taking part except as a spectator. The proceedings
were interesting, and aroused the audience to a high state of feeling.
There was present in the meeting a certain abolitionist, by name
William C. Coffin, who had heard Douglass speak in the little negro
Sunday-school at New Bedford, and who knew of his recent escape from
slavery. To him came the happy inspiration to ask Douglass to speak
a few words to the convention by way of personal testimony. Collins
introduced the speaker as "a graduate from slavery, with his diploma
written upon his back."

Douglass himself speaks very modestly about this, his first public
appearance. He seems, from his own account, to have suffered somewhat
from stage fright, which was apparently his chief memory concerning
it. The impressions of others, however, allowing a little for the
enthusiasm of the moment, are a safer guide as to the effect of
Douglass's first speech. Parker Pillsbury reported that, "though it
was late in the evening when the young man closed his remarks, none
seemed to know or care for the hour.... The crowded congregation had
been wrought up almost to enchantment during the whole long evening,
particularly by some of the utterances of the last speaker [Douglass],
as he turned over the terrible apocalypse of his experience in
slavery." Mr. Garrison bore testimony to "the extraordinary emotion it
exerted on his own mind and to the powerful impression it exerted upon
a crowded auditory." "Patrick Henry," he declared, "had never made a
more eloquent speech than the one they had just listened to from the
lips of the hunted fugitive." Upon Douglass and his speech as a text
Mr. Garrison delivered one of the sublimest and most masterly efforts
of his life; and then and there began the friendship between the
fugitive slave and the great agitator which opened the door
for Douglass to a life of noble usefulness, and secured to the
anti-slavery cause one of its most brilliant and effective orators.

At Garrison's instance Collins offered Douglass employment as lecturer
for the Anti-slavery Society, though the idea of thus engaging him
doubtless occurred to more than one of the abolition leaders who heard
his Nantucket speech. Douglass was distrustful of his own powers. Only
three years out of slavery, with little learning and no experience
as a public speaker, painfully aware of the prejudice which must be
encountered by men of his color, fearful too of the publicity that
might reveal his whereabouts to his legal owner, who might reclaim his
property wherever found, he yielded only reluctantly to Mr. Collins's
proposition, and agreed at first upon only a three months' term of

Most of the abolitionists were, or meant to be, consistent in their
practice of what they preached; and so, when Douglass was enrolled as
one of the little band of apostles, they treated him literally as a
man and a brother. Their homes, their hearts, and their often none too
well-filled purses were open to him. In this new atmosphere his mind
expanded, his spirit took on high courage, and he read and studied
diligently, that he might make himself worthy of his opportunity to do
something for his people.

During the remainder of 1841 Douglass travelled and lectured in
Eastern Massachusetts with George Foster, in the interest of the
two leading abolition journals, the _Anti-slavery Standard_ and the
_Liberator_, and also lectured in Rhode Island against the proposed
Dorr constitution, which sought to limit the right of suffrage to
white male citizens only, thus disfranchising colored men who had
theretofore voted. With Foster and Pillsbury and Parker[1] and
Monroe[2] and Abby Kelly [Kelley][3] he labored to defeat the Dorr
constitution and at the same time promote the abolition gospel. The
proposed constitution was defeated, and colored men who could meet the
Rhode Island property qualification were left in possession of the
right to vote.

[Footnote 1: Editor's Note to Dover Edition: Reverend Theodore Parker
(1810-1860) was a Unitarian minister who graduated from the Harvard
Divinity School and was active in the Boston area.]

[Footnote 2: Editor's Note to Dover Edition: James Monroe (1821-1898),
a New Englander with a Quaker mother; in 1839 he became an
Abolitionist lecturer instead of enrolling in college.]

[Footnote 3: Editor's Note to Dover Edition: Abigail Kelley Foster
(1811-1887), who married another Abolitionist, Stephen Foster, in
1845, was a Quaker orator and organizer on behalf of the abolition of
slavery and for women's right to vote.]

Douglass had plunged into this new work, after the first embarrassment
wore off, with all the enthusiasm of youth and hope. But, except among
the little band of Garrisonians and their sympathizers, his position
did not relieve him from the disabilities attaching to his color.
The feeling toward the negro in New England in 1841 was but little
different from that in the State of Georgia to-day. Men of color were
regarded and treated as belonging to a distinctly inferior order of
creation. At hotels and places of public resort they were refused
entertainment. On railroads and steamboats they were herded off by
themselves in mean and uncomfortable cars. If welcomed in churches
at all, they were carefully restricted to the negro pew. As in the
Southern States to-day, no distinction was made among them in these
respects by virtue of dress or manners or culture or means; but all
were alike discriminated against because of their dark skins. Some
of Douglass's abolition friends, among whom he especially mentions
Wendell Phillips and two others of lesser note, won their way to his
heart by at all times refusing to accept privileges that were denied
to their swarthy companion. Douglass resented proscription wherever
met with, and resisted it with force when the odds were not too
overwhelming. More than once he was beaten and maltreated by railroad
conductors and brakemen. For a time the Eastern Railroad ran its cars
through Lynn, Massachusetts, without stopping, because Douglass, who
resided at that time in Lynn, insisted on riding in the white people's
car, and made trouble when interfered with. Often it was impossible
for the abolitionists to secure a meeting-place; and in several
instances Douglass paraded the streets with a bell, like a town crier,
to announce that he would lecture in the open air.

Some of Douglass's friends, it must be admitted, were at times rather
extreme in their language, and perhaps stirred up feelings that a
more temperate vocabulary would not have aroused. None of them ever
hesitated to call a spade a spade, and some of them denounced slavery
and all its sympathizers with the vigor and picturesqueness of a
Muggletonian or Fifth Monarchy man of Cromwell's time execrating his
religious adversaries. And, while it was true enough that the Church
and the State were, generally speaking, the obsequious tools of
slavery, it was not easy for an abolitionist to say so in vehement
language without incurring the charge of treason or blasphemy,--an old
trick of bigotry and tyranny to curb freedom of thought and freedom of
speech. The little personal idiosyncrasies which some of the reformers
affected, such as long hair in the men and short hair in the
women,--there is surely some psychological reason why reformers run
to such things,--served as convenient excuses for gibes and unseemly
interruptions at their public meetings. On one memorable occasion,
at Syracuse, New York, in November, 1842, Douglass and his fellows
narrowly escaped tar and feathers. But, although Douglass was
vehemently denunciatory of slavery in all its aspects, his twenty
years of training in that hard school had developed in him a vein of
prudence that saved him from these verbal excesses,--perhaps there was
also some element of taste involved,--and thus made his arguments more
effective than if he had alienated his audiences by indiscriminate
attacks on all the institutions of society. No one could justly
accuse Frederick Douglass of cowardice or self-seeking; yet he was
opportunist enough to sacrifice the immaterial for the essential, and
to use the best means at hand to promote the ultimate object sought,
although the means thus offered might not be the ideal instrument. It
was doubtless this trait that led Douglass, after he separated from
his abolitionist friends, to modify his views upon the subject
of disunion and the constitutionality of slavery, and to support
political parties whose platforms by no means expressed the full
measure of his convictions.

In 1843 the New England Anti-slavery Society resolved, at its annual
meeting in the spring, to stir the Northern heart and rouse the
national conscience by a series of one hundred conventions in New
Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.
Douglass was assigned as one of the agents for the conduct of this
undertaking. Among those associated in this work, which extended over
five months, were John A. Collins, the president of the society, who
mapped out the campaign; James Monroe; George Bradburn; William A.
White; Charles L. Remond, a colored orator, born in Massachusetts, who
rendered effective service in the abolition cause; and Sidney Howard
Gay, at that time managing editor of the _National Anti-slavery
Standard_ and later of the New York _Tribune_ and the New York
_Evening Post._

The campaign upon which this little band of missionaries set out was
no inconsiderable one. They were not going forth to face enthusiastic
crowds of supporters, who would meet them with brass bands and shouts
of welcome. They were more likely to be greeted with hisses and
cat-calls, sticks and stones, stale eggs and decayed cabbages, hoots
and yells of derision, and decorations of tar and feathers.

In some towns of Vermont slanderous reports were made in advance of
their arrival, their characters were assailed, and their aims and
objects misrepresented. In Syracuse, afterward distinguished for its
strong anti-slavery sentiment, the abolitionists were compelled to
hold their meetings in the public park, from inability to procure a
house in which to speak; and only after their convention was well
under way were they offered the shelter of a dilapidated and abandoned
church. In Rochester they met with a more hospitable reception. The
indifference of Buffalo so disgusted Douglass's companions that they
shook the dust of the city from their feet, and left Douglass, who was
accustomed to coldness and therefore undaunted by it, to tread the
wine-press alone. He spoke in an old post-office for nearly a week,
to such good purpose that a church was thrown open to him; and on
a certain Sunday, in the public park, he held and thrilled by his
eloquence an audience of five thousand people.

On leaving Buffalo, Douglass joined the other speakers, and went
with them to Clinton County, Ohio, where, under a large tent, a mass
meeting was held of abolitionists who had come from widely scattered
points. During an excursion made about this time to Pennsylvania to
attend a convention at Norristown, an attempt was made to lynch him at
Manayunk; but his usual good fortune served him, and he lived to be
threatened by higher powers than a pro-slavery mob.

When the party of reformers reached Indiana, where the pro-slavery
spirit was always strong, the State having been settled largely by
Southerners, their campaign of education became a running fight, in
which Douglass, whose dark skin attracted most attention, often got
more than his share. His strength and address brought him safely
out of many an encounter; but in a struggle with a mob at Richmond,
Indiana, he was badly beaten and left unconscious on the ground. A
good Quaker took him home in his wagon, his wife bound up Douglass's
wounds and nursed him tenderly,--the Quakers were ever the consistent
friends of freedom,--but for the lack of proper setting he carried to
the grave a stiff hand as the result of this affray. He had often been
introduced to audiences as "a graduate from slavery with his diploma
written upon his back": from Indiana he received the distinction of a
post-graduate degree.


It can easily be understood that such a man as Douglass, thrown thus
into stimulating daily intercourse with some of the brightest minds
of his generation, all animated by a high and noble enthusiasm for
liberty and humanity,--such men as Garrison and Phillips and Gay
and Monroe and many others,--should have developed with remarkable
rapidity those reserves of character and intellect which slavery had
kept in repression. And yet, while aware of his wonderful talent for
oratory, he never for a moment let this knowledge turn his head or
obscure the consciousness that he had brought with him out of slavery
of some of the disabilities of that status. Naturally, his expanding
intelligence sought a wider range of expression; and his simple
narrative of the wrongs of slavery gave way sometimes to a discussion
of its philosophy. His abolitionist friends would have preferred
him to stick a little more closely to the old line,--to furnish the
experience while they provided the argument. But the strong will that
slavery had not been able to break was not always amenable to politic
suggestion. Douglass's style and vocabulary and logic improved so
rapidly that people began to question his having been a slave.
His appearance, speech, and manner differed so little in material
particulars from those of his excellent exemplars that many people
were sceptical of his antecedents. Douglass had, since his escape from
slavery, carefully kept silent about the place he came from and his
master's name and the manner of his escape, for the very good
reason that their revelation would have informed his master of his
whereabouts and rendered his freedom precarious; for the fugitive
slave law was in force, and only here and there could local public
sentiment have prevented its operation. Confronted with the
probability of losing his usefulness, as the "awful example," Douglass
took the bold step of publishing in the spring of 1845 the narrative
of his experience as a slave, giving names of people and places, and
dates as nearly as he could recall them. His abolitionist friends
doubted the expediency of this step; and Wendell Phillips advised him
to throw the manuscript into the fire, declaring that the government
of Massachusetts had neither the power nor the will to protect him
from the consequences of his daring.

The pamphlet was widely read. It was written in a style of graphic
simplicity, and was such an _expose_ of slavery as exasperated its
jealous supporters and beneficiaries. Douglass soon had excellent
reasons to fear that he would be recaptured by force or guile and
returned to slavery or a worse fate. The prospect was not an alluring
one; and hence, to avoid an involuntary visit to the scenes of his
childhood, he sought liberty beyond the sea, where men of his color
have always enjoyed a larger freedom than in their native land.

In 1845 Douglass set sail for England on board the _Cambria_, of the
Cunard Line, accompanied by James N. Buffum, a prominent abolitionist
of Lynn, Massachusetts. On the same steamer were the Hutchinson
family, who lent their sweet songs to the anti-slavery crusade.
Douglass's color rendered him ineligible for cabin passage, and he was
relegated to the steerage. Nevertheless, he became quite the lion of
the vessel, made the steerage fashionable, was given the freedom
of the ship, and invited to lecture on slavery. This he did to the
satisfaction of all the passengers except a few young men from New
Orleans and Georgia, who, true to the instincts of their caste, made
his strictures on the South a personal matter, and threatened to throw
him overboard. Their zeal was diminished by an order of the captain to
put them in irons. They sulked in their cabins, however, and rushed
into print when they reached Liverpool, thus giving Douglass the very
introduction he needed to the British public, which was promptly
informed, by himself and others, of the true facts in regard to the
steamer speech and the speaker.


The two years Douglass spent in Great Britain upon this visit were
active and fruitful ones, and did much to bring him to that full
measure of development scarcely possible for him in slave-ridden
America. For while the English government had fostered slavery prior
to the Revolution, and had only a few years before Douglass's visit
abolished it in its own colonies, this wretched system had never
fastened its clutches upon the home islands. Slaves had been brought
to England, it is true, and carried away; but, when the right to
remove them was questioned in court, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield,
with an abundance of argument and precedent to support a position
similar to that of Justice Taney in the Dred Scott case, had taken the
contrary view, and declared that the air of England was free, and the
slave who breathed it but once ceased thereby to be a slave. History
and humanity have delivered their verdict on these two decisions, and
time is not likely to disturb it.

A few days after landing at Liverpool, Douglass went to Ireland, where
the agitation for the repeal of the union between Great Britain and
Ireland was in full swing, under the leadership of Daniel O'Connell,
the great Irish orator. O'Connell had denounced slavery in words
of burning eloquence. The Garrisonian abolitionists advocated the
separation of the free and slave States as the only means of securing
some part of the United States to freedom. The American and Irish
disunionists were united by a strong bond of sympathy. Douglass was
soon referred to as "the black O'Connell," and lectured on slavery and
on temperance to large and enthusiastic audiences. He was introduced
to O'Connell, and exchanged compliments with him. A public breakfast
was given him at Cork, and a soiree by Father Matthew, the eminent
leader of the great temperance crusade which at that time shared with
the repeal agitation the public interest of Ireland. A reception to
Douglass and his friend Buffum was held in St. Patricks Temperance
Hall, where they were greeted with a special song of welcome, written
for the occasion. On January 6, 1846, a public breakfast was given
Douglass at Belfast, at which the local branch of the British and
Foreign Anti-slavery Society presented him with a Bible bound in gold.

After four months in Ireland, where he delivered more than fifty
lectures, Douglass and his friend Buffum left Ireland, on January 10,
1846, for Scotland, where another important reform was in progress. It
was an epoch of rebellion against the established order of things.
The spirit of revolt was in the air. The disruption movement in the
Established Church of Scotland, led by the famous Dr. Chalmers, had
culminated in 1843 in the withdrawal of four hundred and seventy
ministers, who gave up the shelter and security of the Establishment
for the principle that a congregation should choose its own pastor,
and organized themselves into the Free Protesting Church, commonly
called the Free Kirk. An appeal had been issued to the Presbyterian
churches of the world for aid to establish a sustentation fund for the
use of the new church. Among the contributions from the United States
was one from a Presbyterian church in Charleston, South Carolina. Just
before this contribution arrived a South Carolina judge had condemned
a Northern man to death for aiding the escape of a female slave. This
incident had aroused horror and indignation throughout Great Britain.
Lord Brougham had commented on it in the House of Lords, and Lord
Chief Justice Denham had characterized it "in the name of all the
judges of England" as a "horrible iniquity." O'Connell had rejected
profferred contributions from the Southern States, and an effort was
made in Scotland to have the South Carolina money sent back. The
attempt failed ultimately; but the agitation on the subject was for a
time very fierce, and gave Douglass and his friends the opportunity to
strike many telling blows at slavery. He had never minced his words in
the United States, and he now handled without gloves the government
whose laws had driven him from its borders.

From Scotland Douglass went to England, where he found still another
great reform movement nearing a triumphant conclusion. The Anti-corn
Law League, after many years of labor, under the leadership of Richard
Cobden and John Bright, for the abolition of the protective tariff on
wheat and other kinds of grain for food, had brought its agitation to
a successful issue; and on June 26, 1846, the Corn Laws were repealed.
The generous enthusiasm for reform of one kind or another that
pervaded the British Islands gave ready sympathy and support to the
abolitionists in their mission. The abolition of slavery in the
colonies had been decreed by Parliament in 1833, but the old leaders
in that reform had not lost their zeal for liberty. George Thompson,
who with Clarkson and Wilberforce had led the British abolitionists,
invited Garrison over to help reorganize the anti-slavery sentiment of
Great Britain against American slavery; and in August, 1846, Garrison
went to England, in that year evidently a paradise of reformers.

During the week beginning May 17, 1846, Douglass addressed
respectively the annual meeting of the British and Foreign
Anti-slavery Society, a peace convention, a suffrage extension
meeting, and a temperance convention, and spoke also at a reception
where efforts were made to induce him to remain in England, and money
subscribed to bring over his family. As will be seen hereafter, he
chose the alternative of returning to the United States.

On August 7, 1846, Douglass addressed the World's Temperance
Convention, held at Covent Garden Theatre, London. There were many
speakers, and the time allotted to each was brief; but Douglass never
lost an opportunity to attack slavery, and he did so on this occasion
over the shoulder of temperance. He stated that he was not a delegate
to the convention, because those whom he might have represented were
placed beyond the pale of American temperance societies either by
slavery or by an inveterate prejudice against their color. He referred
to the mobbing of a procession of colored temperance societies in
Philadelphia several years before, the burning of one of their
churches, and the wrecking of their best temperance hall. These
remarks brought out loud protests and calls for order from the
American delegates present, who manifested the usual American
sensitiveness to criticism, especially on the subject of slavery; but
the house sustained Douglass, and demanded that he go on. Douglass was
denounced for this in a letter to the New York papers by Rev. Dr. Cox,
one of the American delegates.

Douglass's reply to this letter gave him the better of the
controversy. He sometimes expressed the belief, founded on long
experience, that doctors of divinity were, as a rule, among the most
ardent supporters of slavery. Dr. Cox, who seems at least to have met
the description, was also a delegate to the Evangelical Alliance,
which met in London, August 19, 1846, with a membership of one
thousand delegates from fifty different evangelical sects throughout
the world. The question was raised in the convention whether or not
fellowship should be held with slaveholders. Dr. Cox and the other
Americans held that it should, and their views ultimately prevailed.
Douglass made some telling speeches at Anti-slavery League meetings,
in denunciation of the cowardice of the Alliance, and won a wide

Douglass remained in England two years. Not only did this visit give
him a great opportunity to influence British public opinion against
slavery, but the material benefits to himself were inestimable. He
had left the United States a slave before the law, denied every civil
right and every social privilege, literally a man without a country,
and forced to cross the Atlantic among the cattle in the steerage of
the steamboat. During his sojourn in Great Britain an English lady,
Mrs. Ellen Richardson, of Newcastle, had raised seven hundred and
fifty dollars, which was paid over to Hugh Auld, of Maryland, to secure
Douglass's legal manumission; and, not content with this generous
work, the same large-hearted lady had raised by subscription about
two thousand five hundred dollars, which Douglass carried back to the
United States as a free gift, and used to start his newspaper. He had
met in Europe, as he said in a farewell speech, men quite as white as
he had ever seen in the United States and of quite as noble exterior,
and had seen in their faces no scorn of his complexion. He had
travelled over the four kingdoms, and had encountered no sign of
disrespect. He had been lionized in London, had spoken every night of
his last month there, and had declined as many more invitations. He had
shaken hands with the venerable Clarkson, and had breakfasted with the
philosopher Combe, the author of _The Constitution of Man_. He had won
the friendship of John Bright, had broken bread with Sir John Bowring,
had been introduced to Lord Brougham, the brilliant leader of the
Liberal party, and had listened to his wonderful eloquence. He had met
Douglas Jerrold, the famous wit, and had been entertained by the poet
William Howitt, who made a farewell speech in his honor. Everywhere he
had denounced slavery, everywhere hospitable doors had opened wide to
receive him, everywhere he had made friends for himself and his cause.
A slave and an outcast at home, he had been made to feel himself a
gentleman, had been the companion of great men and good women. Urged
to remain in this land of freedom, and offered aid to establish
himself in life there, his heart bled for his less fortunate brethren
in captivity; and, with the God-speed of his English friends ringing
in his ears, he went back to America,--to scorn, to obloquy, to
ostracism, but after all to the work to which he had been ordained,
and which he was so well qualified to perform.


Douglass landed April 20, 1847. He returned to the United States
with the intention of publishing the newspaper for which his English
friends had so kindly furnished the means; but his plan meeting with
opposition from his abolitionist friends, who thought the platform
offered him a better field for usefulness, he deferred the enterprise
until near the end of the year. In the mean time he plunged again into
the thick of the anti-slavery agitation. We find him lecturing in
May in the Broadway Tabernacle, New York, and writing letters to the
anti-slavery papers. In June he was elected president of the New
England Anti-slavery Convention. In August and September he went on a
lecturing tour with Garrison and others through Pennsylvania and Ohio.
On this tour the party attended the commencement exercises of Oberlin
College, famous for its anti-slavery principles and practice, and
spoke to immense meetings at various places in Ohio and New York.
Their cause was growing in popular favor; and, in places where
formerly they had spoken out of doors because of the difficulty of
securing a place of meeting, they were now compelled to speak in the
open air, because the churches and halls would not contain their

On December 3, 1847, the first number of the _North Star_ appeared.
Douglass's abolitionist friends had not yet become reconciled to this
project, and his persistence in it resulted in a temporary coldness
between them. They very naturally expected him to be guided by their
advice. They had found him on the wharf at New Bedford, and given him
his chance in life; and they may easily be pardoned for finding it
presumptuous in him to disregard their advice and adopt a new line of
conduct without consulting them. Mr. Garrison wrote in a letter to his
wife from Cleveland, "It will also greatly surprise our friends in
Boston to hear that in regard to his prospect of establishing a paper
here, to be called the North Star, he never opened his lips to me
on the subject nor asked my advice in any particular whatever." But
Samuel May Jr., in a letter written to one of Douglass's English
friends, in which he mentions this charge of Garrison, adds, "It is
only common justice to Frederick Douglass to inform you that this is a
mistake; that, on the contrary, he did speak to Mr. Garrison about it,
just before he was taken ill at Cleveland." The probability is that
Douglass had his mind made up, and did not seek advice, and that Mr.
Garrison did not attach much importance to any casual remark Douglass
may have made upon the subject. In a foot-note to the _Life and Times
of Garrison_ it is stated:--

"This enterprise was not regarded with favor by the leading
abolitionists, who knew only too well the precarious support which a
fifth anti-slavery paper, edited by a colored man, must have, and who
appreciated to the full Douglass's unrivalled powers as a lecturer
in the field ... As anticipated, it nearly proved the ruin of its
projector; but by extraordinary exertions it was kept alive, not,
however, on the platform of Garrisonian abolitionism. The necessary
support could only be secured by a change of principles in accordance
with Mr. Douglass's immediate (political abolition) environment."

Douglass's own statement does not differ very widely from this,
except that he does not admit the mercenary motive for his change
of principles. It was in deference, however, to the feelings of his
former associates that the _North Star_ was established at Rochester
instead of in the East, where the field for anti-slavery papers was
already fully occupied. In Rochester, then as now the centre of a
thrifty, liberal, and progressive population, Douglass gradually won
the sympathy and support which such an enterprise demanded.

The _North Star_, in size, typography, and interest, compared
favorably with the other weeklies of the day, and lived for seventeen
years. It had, however, its "ups and downs." At one time the editor
had mortgaged his house to pay the running expenses; but friends came
to his aid, his debts were paid, and the circulation of the paper
doubled. In _My Bondage and My Freedom_ Douglass gives the names of
numerous persons who helped him in these earlier years of editorial
effort, among whom were a dozen of the most distinguished public men
of his day. After the _North Star_ had been in existence several
years, its name was changed to _Frederick Douglass's Paper_, to give
it a more distinctive designation, the newspaper firmament already
scintillating with many other "Stars."

In later years Douglass speaks of this newspaper enterprise as one of
the wisest things he ever undertook. To paraphrase Lord Bacon's famous
maxim, much reading of life and of books had made him a full man, and
much speaking had made him a ready man. The attempt to put facts
and arguments into literary form tended to make him more logical
in reasoning and more exact in statement. One of the effects of
Douglass's editorial responsibility and the influences brought to bear
upon him by reason of it, was a change in his political views. Until
he began the publication of the _North Star_ and for several years
thereafter, he was, with the rest of the Garrisonians, a pronounced
disunionist. He held to the Garrisonian doctrine that the pro-slavery
Constitution of the United States was a "league with death and a
covenant with hell," maintained that anti-slavery men should not vote
under it, and advocated the separation of the free States as the
only means of preventing the utter extinction of freedom by the
ever-advancing encroachments of the slave power. In Rochester he found
himself in the region where the Liberty party, under the leadership of
James G. Birney, Salmon P. Chase, Gerrit Smith, and others, had its
largest support. The Liberty party maintained that slavery could be
fought best with political weapons, that by the power of the ballot
slavery could be confined strictly within its constitutional limits
and prevented from invading new territory, and that it could be
extinguished by the respective States whenever the growth of public
opinion demanded it. One wing of the party took the more extreme
ground that slavery was contrary to the true intent and meaning of
the Constitution, and demanded that the country should return to the
principles of liberty upon which it was founded. Though the more
radical abolitionists were for a time bitterly opposed to these views,
yet the Liberty party was the natural outgrowth of the abolition
agitation. Garrison and Phillips and Douglass and the rest had
planted, Birney and Gerrit Smith and Chase and the rest watered, and
the Union party, led by the great emancipator, garnered the grain
after a bloody harvest.

Several influences must have co-operated to modify Douglass's
political views. The moral support and occasional financial aid given
his paper by members of the Liberty party undoubtedly predisposed
him favorably to their opinions. His retirement as agent of the
Anti-slavery Society and the coolness resulting therefrom had taken
him out of the close personal contact with those fervent spirits who
had led the van in the struggle for liberty. Their zeal had been more
disinterested, perhaps, than Douglass's own; for, after all, they had
no personal stake in the outcome, while to Douglass and his people the
abolition of slavery was a matter of life and death. Serene in the
high altitude of their convictions, the Garrisonians would accept no
halfway measures, would compromise no principles, and, if their right
arm offended them, would cut it off with sublime fortitude and cast it
into the fire. They wanted a free country, where the fleeing victim of
slavery could find a refuge. Douglass perceived the immense advantage
these swarming millions would gain through being free in the States
where they already were. He had always been minded to do the best
thing possible. When a slave, he had postponed his escape until it
seemed entirely feasible. When denied cabin passage on steamboats,
he had gone in the steerage or on deck. When he had been refused
accommodation in a hotel, he had sought it under any humble roof that
offered. It would have been a fine thing in the abstract to refuse the
half-loaf, but in that event we should have had no Frederick Douglass.
It was this very vein of prudence, keeping always in view the object
to be attained, and in a broad, non-Jesuitical sense subordinating the
means to the end, that enabled Douglass to prolong his usefulness a
generation after the abolition of slavery. Douglass in his _Life and
Times_ states his own case as follows:

"After a time, a careful reconsideration of the subject convinced
me that there was no necessity for dissolving the union between the
Northern and Southern States; that to seek this dissolution was no
part of my duty as an abolitionist; that to abstain from voting was
to refuse to exercise a legitimate and powerful means for abolishing
slavery; and that the Constitution of the United States not only
contained no guarantees in favor of slavery, but, on the contrary, was
in its letter and spirit an anti-slavery instrument, demanding the
abolition of slavery as a condition of its own existence, as the
supreme law of the land."

This opinion was not exactly the opinion of the majority of the
Liberty party, which did not question the constitutionality of slavery
in the slave States. Neither was it the opinion of the Supreme Court,
which in the Dred Scott case held that the Constitution guaranteed
not only the right to hold slaves, but to hold them in free States.
Nevertheless, entertaining the views he did, Douglass was able to
support the measures which sought to oppose slavery through political
action. In August, 1848, while his Garrisonian views were as yet
unchanged, he had been present as a spectator at the Free Soil
Convention at Buffalo. In his Life and Times he says of this
gathering: "This Buffalo Convention of Free Soilers, however low their
standard, did lay the foundation of a grand superstructure. It was a
powerful link in the chain of events by which the slave system has
been abolished, the slave emancipated, and the country saved from
dismemberment." In 1851 Douglass announced that his sympathies were
with the voting abolitionists, and thenceforth he supported by voice
and pen Hale, Fremont, and Lincoln, the successive candidates of the
new party.

Douglass's political defection very much intensified the feeling
against him among his former coadjutors. The Garrisonians, with their
usual plain speaking, did not hesitate to say what they thought of
Douglass. Their three papers, the _Liberator_, the _Standard_, and the
_Freeman_, assailed Douglass fiercely, and charged him with treachery,
inconsistency, ingratitude, and all the other crimes so easily imputed
to one who changes his opinions. Garrison and Phillips and others of
his former associates denounced him as a deserter, and attributed his
change of heart to mercenary motives. Douglass seems to have borne
himself with rare dignity and moderation in this trying period. He
realized perfectly well that he was on the defensive, and that the
burden devolved upon him to justify his change of front. This he seems
to have attempted vigorously, but by argument rather than invective.
Even during the height of the indignation against him Douglass
disclaimed any desire to antagonize his former associates. He simply
realized that there was more than one way to fight slavery,--which
knew a dozen ways to maintain itself,--and had concluded to select the
one that seemed most practical. He was quite willing that his former
friends should go their own way. "No personal assaults," he wrote to
George Thompson, the English abolitionist, who wrote to him for an
explanation of the charges made against him, "shall ever lead me to
forget that some, who in America have often made me the subject
of personal abuse, are in their own way earnestly working for the
abolition of slavery."

In later years, when political action had resulted in abolition, some
of these harsh judgments were modified, and Douglass and his earlier
friends met in peace and harmony. The debt he owed to William Lloyd
Garrison he ever delighted to acknowledge. His speech on the death of
Garrison breathes in every word the love and honor in which he held
him. In one of the last chapters of his _Life and Times_ he makes a
sweeping acknowledgment of his obligations to the men and women who
rendered his career possible.

"It was my good fortune," he writes, "to get out of slavery at the
right time, to be speedily brought in contact with that circle of
highly cultivated men and women, banded together for the overthrow of
slavery, of which William Lloyd Garrison was the acknowledged leader.
To these friends, earnest, courageous, inflexible, ready to own me as
a man and a brother, against all the scorn, contempt, and derision of
a slavery-polluted atmosphere, I owe my success in life."


Events moved rapidly in the decade preceding the war. In 1850 the new
Fugitive Slave Law brought discouragement to the hearts of the friends
of liberty. Douglass's utterances during this period breathed the
fiery indignation which he felt when the slave-driver's whip was heard
cracking over the free States, and all citizens were ordered to aid
in the enforcement of this inhuman statute when called upon. This law
really defeated its own purpose. There were thousands of conservative
Northern men, who, recognizing the constitutional guarantees of
slavery and the difficulty of abolishing it unless the South should
take the initiative, were content that it should be preserved intact
so long as it remained a local institution. But when the attempt was
made to make the North wash the South's dirty linen, and transform
every man in the Northern States into a slave-catcher, it wrought a
revulsion of feeling that aroused widespread sympathy for the slave
and strengthened the cause of freedom amazingly. Thousands of escaped
slaves were living in Northern communities. Some of them had acquired
homes, had educated their children, and in some States had become
citizens and voters. Already social pariahs, restricted generally to
menial labor, bearing the burdens of poverty and prejudice, they now
had thrust before them the spectre of the kidnapper, the slave-catcher
with his affidavit, and the United States [Supreme] Court, which
was made by this law the subservient tool of tyranny. This law gave
Douglass and the other abolitionists a new text. It was a set-back to
their cause; but they were not entirely disheartened, for they saw in
it the desperate expedients by which it was sought to bolster up an
institution already doomed by the advancing tide of civilization.

The loss of slaves had become a serious drain upon the border States.
The number of refugees settled in the North was, of course, largely
a matter of estimate. Runaway slaves were not apt to advertise their
status, but rather to conceal it, so that most estimates were more
likely to be under than over the truth. Henry Wilson places the number
in the free States at twenty thousand. There were in Boston in 1850,
according to a public statement of Theodore Parker, from four to six
hundred; and in other New England towns, notably New Bedford, the
number was large. Other estimates place the figures much higher. Mr.
Siebert, in his _Underground Railroad_, after a careful calculation
from the best obtainable data, puts the number of fugitives aided in
Ohio alone at forty thousand in the thirty years preceding 1860, and
in the same period nine thousand in the city of Philadelphia alone,
which was one of the principal stations of the underground railroad
and the home of William Still, whose elaborate work on the
_Underground Railroad_ gives the details of many thrilling escapes.

In the work of assisting runaway slaves Douglass found congenial
employment. It was exciting and dangerous, but inspiring and
soul-satisfying. He kept a room in his house always ready for
fugitives, having with him as many as eleven at a time. He would keep
them over night, pay their fare on the train for Canada, and give them
half a dollar extra. And Canada, to her eternal honor be it said,
received these assisted emigrants, with their fifty cents apiece, of
alien race, debauched by slavery, gave them welcome and protection,
refused to enter into diplomatic relations for their rendition to
bondage, and spoke well of them as men and citizens when Henry Clay
and the other slave [pro-slavery] leaders denounced them as the most
worthless of their class. The example of Canada may be commended to
those persons in the United States, of little faith, who, because in
thirty years the emancipated race have not equalled the white man in
achievement, are fearful lest nothing good can be expected of them.

In the stirring years of the early fifties Douglass led a busy life.
He had each week to fill the columns of his paper and raise the money
to pay its expenses. Add to this his platform work and the underground
railroad work, which consisted not only in personal aid to the
fugitives, but in raising money to pay their expenses, and his time
was very adequately employed. In every anti-slavery meeting his face
was welcome, and his position as a representative of his own peculiar
people was daily strengthened.

When Uncle Tom's Cabin, in 1852, set the world on fire over the wrongs
of the slave,--or rather the wrongs of slavery, for that wonderful
book did not portray the negro as the only sufferer from this hoary
iniquity,--Mrs. Stowe, in her new capacity as a champion of liberty,
conceived the plan of raising a fund for the benefit of the colored
race, and in 1853 invited Douglass to visit her at Andover,
Massachusetts, where she consulted with him in reference to the
establishment of an industrial institute or trades school for colored
youth, with a view to improving their condition in the free States.
Douglass approved heartily of this plan, and through his paper made
himself its sponsor. When, later on, Mrs. Stowe abandoned the project,
Douglass was made the subject of some criticism, though he was not at
all to blame for Mrs. Stowes altered plans. In our own time the value
of such institutions has been widely recognized, and the success of
those at Hampton and Tuskegee has stimulated anew the interest in
industrial education as one important factor in the elevation of the
colored race.

In the years from 1853 to 1860 the slave power, inspired with divine
madness, rushed headlong toward its doom. The arbitrary enforcement of
the Fugitive Slave Act; the struggle between freedom and slavery in
Kansas; the Dred Scott decision, by which a learned and subtle judge,
who had it within his power to enlarge the boundaries of human liberty
and cover his own name with glory, deliberately and laboriously
summarized and dignified with the sanction of a court of last resort
all the most odious prejudices that had restricted the opportunities
of the colored people; the repeal of the Missouri Compromise; the John
Brown raid; the [1855] assault on [Massachusetts antislavery U.S.
Senator] Charles Sumner,--each of these incidents has been, in itself,
the subject of more than one volume. Of these events the Dred Scott
decision was the most disheartening. Douglass was not proof against
the universal gloom, and began to feel that there was little hope of
the peaceful solution of the question of slavery. It was in one of his
darker moments that old Sojourner Truth, whose face appeared in so
many anti-slavery gatherings, put her famous question, which breathed
a sublime and childlike faith in God, even when his hand seemed
heaviest on her people: "Frederick," she asked, "is God dead?" The
orator paused impressively, and then thundered in a voice that
thrilled his audience with prophetic intimations, "No, God is not
dead; and therefore it is that slavery must end in blood!"

During this period John Brown stamped his name indelibly upon American
history. It was almost inevitable that a man of the views, activities,
and prominence of Douglass should become acquainted with John Brown.
Their first meeting, however, was in 1847, more than ten years before
the tragic episode at Harpers Ferry. At that time Brown was a merchant
at Springfield, Massachusetts, whither Douglass was invited to visit
him. In his _Life and Times_ he describes Brown as a prosperous
merchant, who in his home lived with the utmost abstemiousness, in
order that he might save money for the great scheme he was already
revolving. "His wife believed in him, and his children observed him
with reverence. His arguments seemed to convince all, his appeals
touched all, and his will impressed all. Certainly, I never felt
myself in the presence of stronger religious influence than while in
this man's house." There in his own home, where Douglass stayed as his
guest, Brown outlined a plan which in substantially the same form he
held dear to his heart for a decade longer. This plan, briefly stated,
was to establish camps at certain easily defended points in the
Allegheny Mountains; to send emissaries down to the plantations in
the lowlands, starting in Virginia, and draw off the slaves to these
mountain fastnesses; to maintain bands of them there, if possible, as
a constant menace to slavery and an example of freedom; or, if that
were impracticable, to lead them to Canada from time to time by the
most available routes. Wild as this plan may seem in the light of the
desperate game subsequently played by slavery, it did not at the time
seem impracticable to such level-headed men as Theodore Parker and
Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

Douglass's views were very much colored by his association with
Brown; but, with his usual prudence and foresight, he pointed out the
difficulties of this plan. From the time of their first meeting the
relations of the two men were friendly and confidential. Captain Brown
had his scheme ever in mind, and succeeded in convincing Douglass and
others that it would subserve a useful purpose,--that, even if it
resulted in failure, it would stir the conscience of the nation to a
juster appreciation of the iniquity of slavery.

The Kansas troubles, however, turned Brown's energies for a time into
a different channel. After Kansas had been secured to freedom, he
returned with renewed ardor to his old project. He stayed for three
weeks at Douglass's house at Rochester, and while there carried on
an extensive correspondence with sympathizers and supporters, and
thoroughly demonstrated to all with whom he conversed that he was a
man of one all-absorbing idea.

In 1859, very shortly before the raid at Harpers Ferry, Douglass met
Brown by appointment, in an abandoned stone quarry near Chambersburg,
Pennsylvania. John Brown was already an outlaw, with a price upon his
head; for a traitor had betrayed his plan the year before, and he had
for this reason deferred its execution for a year. The meeting was
surrounded by all the mystery and conducted with all the precautions
befitting a meeting of conspirators. Brown had changed the details
of his former plan, and told Douglass of his determination to take
Harpers Ferry. Douglass opposed the measure vehemently, pointing out
its certain and disastrous failure. Brown met each argument with
another, and was not to be swayed from his purpose. They spent more
than a day together discussing the details of the movement. When the
more practical Douglass declined to take part in Brown's attempt, the
old man threw his arms around his swarthy friend, in a manner typical
of his friendship for the dark race, and said: "Come with me,
Douglass, I will defend you with my life. I want you for a special
purpose. When I strike, the bees will begin to swarm, and I shall
want you to help hive them." But Douglass would not be persuaded. His
abandonment of his old friend on the eve of a desperate enterprise was
criticised by some, who, as Douglass says, "kept even farther from
this brave and heroic man than I did." John Brown went forth to meet
a felon's fate and wear a martyr's crown: Douglass lived to fight the
battles of his race for years to come. There was room for both, and
each played the part for which he was best adapted. It would have
strengthened the cause of liberty very little for Douglass to die with

It is quite likely, however, that he narrowly escaped Brown's fate.
When the raid at Harpers Ferry had roused the country, Douglass, with
other leading Northern men, was indicted in Virginia for complicity in
the affair. Brown's correspondence had fallen into the hands of
the Virginia authorities, and certain letters seemed to implicate
Douglass. A trial in Virginia meant almost certain death. Governor
Wise, of Virginia, would have hung him with cheerful alacrity, and
publicly expressed his desire to do so. Douglass, with timely warning
that extradition papers had been issued for his arrest, escaped to
Canada. He had previously planned a second visit to England, and the
John Brown affair had delayed his departure by some days. He sailed
from Quebec, November 12, 1859.

After a most uncomfortable winter voyage of fourteen days Douglass
found himself again in England, an object of marked interest and in
very great demand as a speaker. Six months he spent on the hospitable
shores of Great Britain, lecturing on John Brown, on slavery and other
subjects, and renewing the friendships of former years. Being informed
of the death of his youngest daughter, he cut short his visit, which
he had meant to extend to France, and returned to the United States.
So rapid had been the course of events since his departure that the
excitement over the John Brown raid had subsided. The first Lincoln
campaign was in active progress; and the whole country quivered with
vague anticipation of the impending crisis which was to end the
conflict of irreconcilable principles, and sweep slavery out of the
path of civilization and progress. Douglass plunged into the campaign
with his accustomed zeal, and did what he could to promote the triumph
of the Republican party. Lincoln was elected, and in a few short
months the country found itself in the midst of war. God was not dead,
and slavery was to end in blood.


Ever mindful of his people and seeking always to promote their
welfare, Douglass was one of those who urged, in all his addresses at
this period, the abolition of slavery and the arming of the negroes
as the most effective means of crushing the rebellion. In 1862 he
delivered a series of lectures in New England under the auspices of
the recently formed Emancipation League, which contended for abolition
as a military necessity.

The first or conditional emancipation proclamation was issued in
September, 1862; and shortly afterward Douglass published a pamphlet
for circulation in Great Britain, entitled _The Slave's Appeal to
Great Britain_, in which he urged the English people to refuse
recognition of the independence of the Confederate States. He always
endeavored in his public utterances to remove the doubts and fears of
those who were tempted to leave the negroes in slavery because of the
difficulty of disposing of them after they became free. Douglass, with
the simple, direct, primitive sense of justice that had always marked
his mind, took the only true ground for the solution of the race
problems of that or any other epoch,-that the situation should be met
with equal and exact justice, and that his people should be allowed to
do as they pleased with themselves, "subject only to the same great
laws which apply to other men." He was a conspicuous figure at the
meeting in Tremont Temple, Boston, on January 1, 1863, when the
Emancipation Proclamation, hourly expected by an anxious gathering,
finally flashed over the wires. Douglass was among the first to
suggest the employment of colored troops in the Union army. In spite
of all assertions to the contrary, he foresaw in the war the end of
slavery. He perceived that by the enlistment of colored men not only
would the Northern arms be strengthened, but his people would win an
opportunity to exercise one of the highest rights of freemen, and by
valor on the field of battle to remove some of the stigma that slavery
had placed upon them. He strove through every channel at his command
to impress his views upon the country; and his efforts helped to
swell the current of opinion which found expression, after several
intermediate steps, in the enlistment of two colored regiments by
Governor Andrew, the famous war governor of Massachusetts, a State
foremost in all good works. When Mr. Lincoln had granted permission
for the recruiting of these regiments, Douglass issued through his
paper a stirring appeal, which was copied in the principal journals of
the Union States, exhorting his people to rally to this call, to seize
this opportunity to strike a blow at slavery and win the gratitude
of the country and the blessings of liberty for themselves and their

Douglass exerted himself personally in procuring enlistments, his two
sons [his youngest and his oldest], Charles and Lewis, being [among]
the first in New York to enlist; for the two Massachusetts regiments
were recruited all over the North. Lewis H. Douglass, sergeant-major
in the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, was among the foremost on the
ramparts at Fort Wagner. Both these sons of Douglass survived the war,
and are now well known and respected citizens of Washington, D.C. The
Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, under the gallant but ill-fated Colonel
Shaw, won undying glory in the conflict; and the heroic deeds of the
officers and men of this regiment are fittingly commemorated in the
noble monument by St. Gaudens, recently erected on Boston Common, to
stand as an inspiration of freedom and patriotism for the future and
as testimony that a race which for generations had been deprived of
arms and liberty could worthily bear the one and defend the other.

Douglass was instrumental in persuading the government to put colored
soldiers on an equal footing with white soldiers, both as to pay and
protection. In the course of these efforts he was invited to visit
President Lincoln. He describes this memorable interview in detail in
his _Life and Times_. The President welcomed him with outstretched
hands, put him at once at his ease, and listened patiently and
attentively to all that he had to say. Douglass maintained that
colored soldiers should receive the same pay as white soldiers, should
be protected and exchanged as prisoners, and should be rewarded, by
promotion, for deeds of valor. The President suggested some of the
difficulties to be overcome; but both he and Secretary of War Stanton,
whom Douglass also visited, assured him that in the end his race
should be justly treated. Stanton, before the close of the interview
with him, promised Douglass a commission as assistant adjutant
to General Lorenzo Thomas, then recruiting colored troops in the
Mississippi Valley. But Stanton evidently changed his mind, since the
commission, somewhat to Douglass's chagrin, never came to hand.

When McClellan had been relieved by Grant, and the new leader of the
Union forces was fighting the stubbornly contested campaign of the
Wilderness, President Lincoln again sent for Douglass, to confer with
him with reference to bringing slaves in the rebel States within the
Union lines, so that in the event of premature peace as many slaves
as possible might be free. Douglass undertook, at the President's
suggestion, to organize a band of colored scouts to go among the
negroes and induce them to enter the Union lines. The plan was never
carried out, owing to the rapid success of the Union arms; but the
interview greatly impressed Douglass with the sincerity of the
President's conviction against slavery and his desire to see the war
result in its overthrow. What the colored race may have owed to the
services, in such a quarter, of such an advocate as Douglass, brave,
eloquent, high-principled, and an example to Lincoln of what the
enslaved race was capable of, can only be imagined. That Lincoln was
deeply impressed by these interviews is a matter of history.

Douglass supported vigorously the nomination of Lincoln for a second
term, and was present at his [March 4] inauguration. And a few days
later, while the inspired words of the inaugural address, long
bracketed with the noblest of human utterances, were still ringing in
his ears, he spoke at the meeting held in Rochester to mourn the death
of the martyred President, and made one of his most eloquent and
moving addresses. It was a time that wrung men's hearts, and none more
than the strong-hearted man's whose race had found its liberty through
him who lay dead at Washington, slain by the hand of an assassin whom
slavery had spawned.


With the fall of slavery and the emancipation of the colored race the
heroic epoch of Douglass's career may be said to have closed. The text
upon which he so long had preached had been expunged from the national
bible; and he had been a one-text preacher, a one-theme orator. He
felt the natural reaction which comes with relief from high mental or
physical tension, and wondered, somewhat sadly, what he should do with
himself, and how he should earn a living. The same considerations,
in varying measure, applied to others of the anti-slavery reformers.
Some, unable to escape the reforming habit, turned their attention
to different social evils, real or imaginary. Others, sufficiently
supplied with this worlds goods for their moderate wants, withdrew
from public life. Douglass was thinking of buying a farm and retiring
to rural solitudes, when a new career opened up for him in the lyceum
lecture field. The North was favorably disposed toward colored men.
They had acquitted themselves well during the war, and had
shown becoming gratitude to their deliverers. The once despised
abolitionists were now popular heroes. Douglass's checkered past
seemed all the more romantic in the light of the brighter present,
like a novel with a pleasant ending; and those who had hung
thrillingly upon his words when he denounced slavery now listened with
interest to what he had to say upon other topics. He spoke sometimes
on Woman Suffrage, of which he was always a consistent advocate.
His most popular lecture was one on "Self-made Men." Another on
"Ethnology," in which he sought a scientific basis for his claim for
the negro's equality with the white man, was not so popular--with
white people. The wave of enthusiasm which had swept the enfranchised
slaves into what seemed at that time the safe harbor of constitutional
right was not, after all, based on abstract doctrines of equality of
intellect, but on an inspiring sense of justice (long dormant under
the influence of slavery, but thoroughly awakened under the moral
stress of the war), which conceded to every man the right of a voice
in his own government and the right to an equal opportunity in life
to develop such powers as he possessed, however great or small these
might be.

But Douglass's work in direct behalf of his race was not yet entirely
done. In fact, he realized very distinctly the vast amount of work
that would be necessary to lift his people up to the level of their
enlarged opportunities; and, as may be gathered from some of his
published utterances, he foresaw that the process would be a long one,
and that their friends might weary sometimes of waiting, and that
there would be reactions toward slavery which would rob emancipation
of much of its value. It was the very imminence of such backward
steps, in the shape of various restrictive and oppressive laws
promptly enacted by the old slave States under President Johnson's
administration, that led Douglass to urge the enfranchisement of the
freedmen. He maintained that in a free country there could be no safe
or logical middle ground between the status of freeman and that of
serf. There has been much criticism because the negro, it is said,
acquired the ballot prematurely. There seemed imperative reasons,
besides that of political expediency, for putting the ballot in his
hands. Recent events have demonstrated that this necessity is as great
now as then. The assumption that negroes--under which generalization
are included all men of color, regardless of that sympathy to which
kinship at least should entitle many of them--are unfit to have a
voice in government is met by the words of Lincoln, which have all the
weight of a political axiom: "No man can be safely trusted to govern
other men without their consent." The contention that a class
who constitute half the population of a State shall be entirely
unrepresented in its councils, because, forsooth, their will there
expressed may affect the government of another class of the same
general population, is as repugnant to justice and human rights as was
the institution of slavery itself. Such a condition of affairs has not
the melodramatic and soul-stirring incidents of chattel slavery, but
its effects can be as far-reaching and as debasing. There has been
some manifestation of its possible consequences in the recent
outbreaks of lynching and other race oppression in the South. The
practical disfranchisement of the colored people in several States,
and the apparent acquiescence by the Supreme Court in the attempted
annulment, by restrictive and oppressive laws, of the war amendments
to the Constitution, have brought a foretaste of what might be
expected should the spirit of the Dred Scott decision become again the
paramount law of the land.

On February 7, 1866, Douglass acted as chief spokesman of a committee
of leading colored men of the country, who called upon President
Johnson to urge the importance of enfranchisement. Mr. Johnson, true
to his Southern instincts, was coldly hostile to the proposition,
recounted all the arguments against it, and refused the committee
an opportunity to reply. The matter was not left with Mr. Johnson,
however; and the committee turned its attention to the leading
Republican statesmen, in whom they found more impressionable material.
Under the leadership of Senators Sumner, Wilson, Wade, and others, the
matter was fully argued in Congress, the Democratic party being in
opposition, as always in national politics, to any measure enlarging
the rights or liberties of the colored race.

In September, 1866, Douglass was elected a delegate from Rochester to
the National Loyalists' Convention at Philadelphia, called to consider
the momentous questions of government growing out of the war. While he
had often attended anti-slavery conventions as the representative of a
small class of abolitionists, his election to represent a large city
in a national convention was so novel a departure from established
usage as to provoke surprise and comment all over the country. On
the way to Philadelphia he was waited upon by a committee of other
delegates, who came to his seat on the train and urged upon him the
impropriety of his taking a seat as a delegate. Douglass listened
patiently, but declined to be moved by their arguments. He replied
that he had been duly elected a delegate from Rochester, and he would
represent that city in the convention. A procession of the members
and friends of the convention was to take place on its opening day.
Douglass was solemnly warned that, if he walked in the procession, he
would probably be mobbed. But he had been mobbed before, more than
once, and had lived through it; and he promptly presented himself at
the place of assembly. His reception by his fellow-delegates was not
cordial, and he seemed condemned to march alone in the procession,
when Theodore Tilton, at that time editor of the _Independent_, paired
off with him, and marched by his side through the streets of the
Quaker City. The result was gratifying alike to Douglass and the
friends of liberty and progress. He was cheered enthusiastically all
along the line of march, and became as popular in the convention as he
had hitherto been neglected.

A romantic incident of this march was a pleasant meeting, on the
street, with a daughter of Mrs. Lucretia Auld, the mistress who had
treated him kindly during his childhood on the Lloyd plantation. The
Aulds had always taken an interest in Douglass's career,--he had,
indeed, given the family a wide though not altogether enviable
reputation in his books and lectures,--and this good lady had followed
the procession for miles, that she might have the opportunity to speak
to her grandfather's former slave and see him walk in the procession.

In the convention "the ever-ready and imperial Douglass," as Colonel
Higginson describes him, spoke in behalf of his race. The convention,
however, divided upon the question of negro suffrage, and adjourned
without decisive action. But under President Grant's administration
the Fourteenth Amendment was passed, and by the solemn sanction of the
Constitution the ballot was conferred upon the black men upon the same
terms as those upon which it was enjoyed by the whites.


It is perhaps fitting, before we take leave of Douglass, to give some
estimate of the remarkable oratory which gave him his hold upon
the past generation. For, while his labors as editor and in other
directions were of great value to the cause of freedom, it is upon his
genius as an orator that his fame must ultimately rest.

While Douglass's color put him in a class by himself among great
orators, and although his slave past threw around him an element of
romance that added charm to his eloquence, these were mere incidental
elements of distinction. The North was full of fugitive slaves, and
more than one had passionately proclaimed his wrongs. There were
several colored orators who stood high in the councils of the
abolitionists and did good service for the cause of humanity.

Douglass possessed, in large measure, the physical equipment most
impressive in an orator. He was a man of magnificent figure, tall,
strong, his head crowned with a mass of hair which made a striking
element of his appearance. He had deep-set and flashing eyes, a firm,
well-moulded chin, a countenance somewhat severe in repose, but
capable of a wide range of expression. His voice was rich and
melodious, and of great carrying power. One writer, who knew him in
the early days of his connection with the abolitionists, says of him,
in Johnson's _Sketches of Lynn_:

"He was not then the polished orator he has since become, but even at
that early date he gave promise of the grand part he was to play in
the conflict which was to end in the destruction of the system that
had so long cursed his race.... He was more than six feet in height;
and his majestic form, as he rose to speak, straight as an arrow,
muscular yet lithe and graceful, his flashing eye, and more than all
his voice, that rivalled Webster's in its richness and in the depth
and sonorousness of its cadences, made up such an ideal of an orator
as the listeners never forgot. And they never forgot his burning
words, his pathos, nor the rich play of his humor."

The poet William Howitt said of him on his departure from England in
1847, "He has appeared in this country before the most accomplished
audiences, who were surprised, not only at his talent, but at his
extraordinary information."

In Ireland he was introduced as "the black O'Connell,"--a high
compliment; for O'Connell was at that time the idol of the Irish
people. In Scotland they called him the "black Douglass [Douglas],"
after his prototype in _The Lady of the Lake_, because of his fire
and vigor. In Rochester he was called the "swarthy Ajax," from his
indignant denunciation and defiance of the Fugitive Slave Law of
1850, which came like a flash of lightning to blast the hopes of the
anti-slavery people.

Douglass possessed in unusual degree the faculty of swaying his
audience, sometimes against their maturer judgment. There is something
in the argument from first principles which, if presented with force
and eloquence, never fails to appeal to those who are not blinded by
self-interest or deep-seated prejudice. Douglass's argument was that
of the Declaration of Independence,--"that _all_ men are created
equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable
rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted
among men, deriving their just powers from the _consent of the
governed_." The writer may be pardoned for this quotation; for there
are times when we seem to forget that now and here, no less than in
ancient Rome, "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." Douglass
brushed aside all sophistries about Constitutional guarantees, and
vested rights, and inferior races, and, having postulated the right of
men to be free, maintained that negroes were men, and offered himself
as a proof of his assertion,--an argument that few had the temerity
to deny. If it were answered that he was only half a negro, he would
reply that slavery made no such distinction, and as a still more
irrefutable argument would point to his friend, Samuel R. Ward, who
often accompanied him on the platform,--an eloquent and effective
orator, of whom Wendell Phillips said that "he was so black that, if
he would shut his eyes, one could not see him." It was difficult for
an auditor to avoid assent to such arguments, presented with all the
force and fire of genius, relieved by a ready wit, a contagious humor,
and a tear-compelling power rarely excelled.

"As a speaker," says one of his contemporaries, "he has few equals. It
is not declamation, but oratory, power of description. He watches the
tide of discussion, and dashes into it at once with all the tact of
the forum or the bar. He has art, argument, sarcasm, pathos,--all that
first-rate men show in their master efforts."

His readiness was admirably illustrated in the running debate with
Captain Rynders, a ward politician and gambler of New York, who led a
gang of roughs with the intention of breaking up the meeting of the
American Anti-slavery Society in New York City, May 7, 1850. The
newspapers had announced the proposed meeting in language calculated
to excite riot. Rynders packed the meeting with rowdies, and himself
occupied a seat on the platform. Some remark by Mr. Garrison, the
first speaker, provoked a demonstration of hostility. When this was
finally quelled by a promise to permit one of the Rynders party to
reply, Mr. Garrison finished his speech. He was followed by a prosy
individual, who branded the negro as brother to the monkey. Douglass,
perceiving that the speaker was wearying even his own friends,
intervened at an opportune moment, captured the audience by a timely
display of wit, and then improved the occasion by a long and effective
speech. When Douglass offered himself as a refutation of the last
speaker's argument, Rynders replied that Douglass was half white.
Douglass thereupon greeted Rynders as his half-brother, and made this
expression the catchword of his speech. When Rynders interrupted from
time to time, he was silenced with a laugh. He appears to have been
a somewhat philosophic scoundrel, with an appreciation of humor that
permitted the meeting to proceed to an orderly close. Douglass's
speech was the feature of the evening. "That gifted man," said
Garrison, in whose _Life and Times_ a graphic description of this
famous meeting is given, "effectually put to shame his assailants by
his wit and eloquence."

A speech delivered by Douglass at Concord, New Hampshire, is thus
described by another writer: "He gradually let out the outraged
humanity that was laboring in him, in indignant and terrible
speech.... There was great oratory in his speech, but more of dignity
and earnestness than what we call eloquence. He was an insurgent
slave, taking hold on the rights of speech, and charging on his
tyrants the bondage of his race."

In Holland's biography of Douglass extracts are given from letters
of distinguished contemporaries who knew the orator. Colonel T.W.
Higginson writes thus: "I have hardly heard his equal, in grasp upon
an audience, in dramatic presentation, in striking at the pith of an
ethical question, and in single [signal] illustrations and examples."
Another writes, in reference to the impromptu speech delivered at the
meeting at Rochester on the death of Lincoln: "I have heard Webster
and Clay in their best moments, Channing and Beecher in their highest
inspirations. I never heard truer eloquence. I never saw profounder

The published speeches of Douglass, of which examples may be found
scattered throughout his various autobiographies, reveal something of
the powers thus characterized, though, like other printed speeches,
they lose by being put in type. But one can easily imagine their
effect upon a sympathetic or receptive audience, when delivered with
flashing eye and deep-toned resonant voice by a man whose complexion
and past history gave him the highest right to describe and denounce
the iniquities of slavery and contend for the rights of a race. In
later years, when brighter days had dawned for his people, and age
had dimmed the recollection of his sufferings and tempered his
animosities, he became more charitable to his old enemies; but in the
vigor of his manhood, with the memory of his wrongs and those of his
race fresh upon him, he possessed that indispensable quality of the
true reformer: he went straight to the root of the evil, and made no
admissions and no compromises. Slavery for him was conceived in greed,
born in sin, cradled in shame, and worthy of utter and relentless
condemnation. He had the quality of directness and simplicity. When
Collins would have turned the abolition influence to the support of a
communistic scheme, Douglass opposed it vehemently. Slavery was the
evil they were fighting, and their cause would be rendered still more
unpopular if they ran after strange gods.

When Garrison pleaded for the rights of man, when Phillips with golden
eloquence preached the doctrine of humanity and progress, men approved
and applauded. When Parker painted the moral baseness of the times,
men acquiesced shamefacedly. When Channing preached the gospel of
love, they wished the dream might become a reality. But, when Douglass
told the story of his wrongs and those of his brethren in bondage,
they felt that here indeed was slavery embodied, here was an argument
for freedom that could not be gainsaid, that the race that could
produce in slavery such a man as Frederick Douglass must surely be
worthy of freedom.

What Douglass's platform utterances in later years lacked of the
vehemence and fire of his earlier speeches, they made up in wisdom and
mature judgment. There is a note of exultation in his speeches just
after the war. Jehovah had triumphed, his people were free. He had
seen the Red Sea of blood open and let them pass, and engulf the enemy
who pursued them.

Among the most noteworthy of Douglass's later addresses were the
oration at the unveiling of the Freedmen's Monument to Abraham Lincoln
in Washington in 1876, which may be found in his _Life and Times_;
the address on Decoration Day, New York, 1878; his eulogy on Wendell
Phillips, printed in Austin's _Life and Times of Wendell Phillips_;
and the speech on the death of Garrison, June, 1879. He lectured in
the Parker Fraternity Course in Boston, delivered numerous addresses
to gatherings of colored men, spoke at public dinners and woman
suffrage meetings, and retained his hold upon the interest of the
public down to the very day of his death.


With the full enfranchisement of his people, Douglass entered upon
what may be called the third epoch of his career, that of fruition.
Not every worthy life receives its reward in this world; but Douglass,
having fought the good fight, was now singled out, by virtue of his
prominence, for various honors and emoluments at the hands of the
public. He was urged by many friends to take up his residence in some
Southern district and run for Congress; but from modesty or some doubt
of his fitness--which one would think he need not have felt--and the
consideration that his people needed an advocate at the North to keep
alive there the friendship and zeal for liberty that had accomplished
so much for his race, he did not adopt the suggestion.

In 1860 [1870] Douglass moved to Washington, and began [took over] the
publication of the _New National Era_, a weekly paper devoted to the
interests of the colored race. The venture did not receive the support
hoped for; and the paper was turned over to Douglass's two [oldest]
sons, Lewis and Frederick, and was finally abandoned [in 1874],
Douglass having sunk about ten thousand dollars in the enterprise.
Later newspapers for circulation among the colored people have proved
more successful; and it ought to be a matter of interest that the race
which thirty years ago could not support one publication, edited by
its most prominent man, now maintains several hundred newspapers which
make their appearance regularly.

In 1871 Douglass was elected president of the Freedmans Bank.
This ill-starred venture was then apparently in the full tide of
prosperity, and promised to be a great lever in the uplifting of
the submerged race. Douglass, soon after his election as president,
discovered the insolvency of the institution, and insisted that it be
closed up. The negro was in the hands of his friends, and was destined
to suffer for their mistakes as well as his own.

Other honors that fell to Douglass were less empty than the presidency
of a bankrupt bank. In 1870 he was appointed by President Grant a
member of the Santo Domingo Commission, the object of which was to
arrange terms for the annexation of the mulatto republic to the Union.
Some of the best friends of the colored race, among them Senator
Sumner, opposed this step; but Douglass maintained that to receive
Santo Domingo as a State would add to its strength and importance. The
scheme ultimately fell through, whether for the good or ill of Santo
Domingo can best be judged when the results of more recent annexation
schemes [1898: Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, and _de
facto_ Cuba] become apparent. Douglass went to Santo Domingo on an
American man-of-war, in the company of three other commissioners. In
his _Life and Times_ he draws a pleasing contrast between some of his
earlier experiences in travelling, and the terms of cordial intimacy
upon which, as the representative of a nation which a few years before
had denied him a passport, he was now received in the company of able
and distinguished gentlemen.

On his return to the United States Douglass received from President
Grant an appointment as member of the legislative council, or upper
house of the legislature, of the District of Columbia, where he served
for a short time, until other engagements demanded his resignation,
[one of] his son[s] being appointed to fill out his term. To this
appointment Douglass owed the title of "Honorable," subsequently
applied to him.

In 1872 Douglass presided over and addressed a convention of colored
men at New Orleans, and urged them to support President Grant for
renomination. He was elected a presidential elector for New York,
and on the meeting of the electoral college in Albany, after Grant's
triumphant re-election, received a further mark of confidence and
esteem in the appointment at the hands of his fellow-electors to carry
the sealed vote to Washington. Douglass sought no personal reward
for his services in this campaign, but to his influence was due the
appointment of several of his friends to higher positions than had
ever theretofore been held in this country by colored men.

When R. B. Hayes was nominated for President, Douglass again took the
stump, and received as a reward the honorable and lucrative office
of Marshal of the United States for the District of Columbia. This
appointment was not agreeable to the white people of the District,
whose sympathies were largely pro-slavery; and an effort was made to
have its confirmation defeated in the Senate. The appointment was
confirmed, however; and Douglass served his term of four years, in
spite of numerous efforts to bring about his removal.

In 1879 the hard conditions under which the negroes in the South
were compelled to live led to a movement to promote an exodus of
the colored people to the North and West, in the search for better
opportunities. The white people of the South, alarmed at the prospect
of losing their labor, were glad to welcome Douglass when he went
among them to oppose this movement, which he at that time considered
detrimental to the true interests of the colored population.

Under the Garfield administration Douglass was appointed in May, 1881,
recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia. He held this very
lucrative office through the terms of Presidents Garfield and Arthur
and until removed by President Cleveland in 1886, having served nearly
a year after Cleveland's inauguration. In 1889 he was appointed by
President Harrison as minister resident and consul-general to the
Republic of Hayti, in which capacity he acted until 1891, when he
resigned and returned permanently to Washington. The writer has heard
him speak with enthusiasm of the substantial progress made by the
Haytians in the arts of government and civilization, and with
indignation of what he considered slanders against the island, due to
ignorance or prejudice. When it was suggested to Douglass that the
Haytians were given to revolution as a mode of expressing disapproval
of their rulers, he replied that a four years' rebellion had been
fought and two Presidents assassinated in the United States during a
comparatively peaceful political period in Hayti. His last official
connection with the Black Republic was at the World's Columbian
Exposition at Chicago in 1893, where he acted as agent in charge
of the Haytian Building and the very creditable exhibit therein
contained. His stately figure, which age had not bowed, his strong
dark face, and his head of thick white hair made him one of the
conspicuous features of the Exposition; and many a visitor took
advantage of the occasion to recall old acquaintance made in the
stirring anti-slavery days.

In 1878 he revisited the Lloyd plantation in Maryland, where he had
spent part of his youth, and an affecting meeting took place between
him and Thomas Auld, whom he had once called master. Once in former
years he had been sought out by the good lady who in his childhood had
taught him to read. Nowhere more than in his own accounts of these
meetings does the essentially affectionate and forgiving character of
Douglass and his race become apparent, and one cannot refrain from
thinking that a different state of affairs might prevail in the
Southern States if other methods than those at present in vogue were
used to regulate the relations between the two races and their various
admixtures that make up the Southern population.

In June, 1879, a bronze bust of Douglass was erected in Sibley Hall of
Rochester University as a tribute to one who had shed lustre on the
city. In 1882 occurred the death of Douglass's first wife, whom he had
married in New York immediately after his escape from slavery, and who
had been his faithful companion through so many years of stress and
struggle. In the same year his _Life and Times_ was published. In 1884
he married Miss Helen Pitts, a white woman of culture and refinement.
There was some criticism of this step by white people who did not
approve of the admixture of the races, and by colored persons who
thought their leader had slighted his own people when he overlooked
the many worthy and accomplished women among them. But Douglass, to
the extent that he noticed these strictures at all, declared that he
had devoted his life to breaking down the color line, and that he did
not know any more effectual way to accomplish it; that he was white by
half his blood, and, as he had given most of his life to his mothers
race, he claimed the right to dispose of the remnant as he saw fit.

The latter years of his life were spent at his beautiful home known as
Cedar Hill, on Anacostia Heights, near Washington, amid all

"that which should accompany old age,
As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends."

He possessed strong and attractive social qualities, and his home
formed a Mecca for the advanced and aspiring of his race. He was
a skilful violinist, and derived great pleasure from the valuable
instrument he possessed. A wholesome atmosphere always surrounded him.
He had never used tobacco or strong liquors, and was clean of speech
and pure in life.

He died at his home in Washington, February 20, 1895. He had been
perfectly well during the day, and was supposed to be in excellent
health. He had attended both the forenoon and afternoon sessions of
the Women's National Council, then in session at Washington, and had
been a conspicuous figure in the audience. On his return home, while
speaking to his wife in the hallway of his house, he suddenly fell,
and before assistance could be given he had passed away.

His death brought forth many expressions from the press of the land,
reflecting the high esteem in which he had been held by the public
for a generation. In various cities meetings were held, at which
resolutions of sorrow and appreciation were passed, and delegations
appointed to attend his funeral. In the United States Senate a
resolution was offered reciting that in the person of the late
Frederick Douglass death had borne away a most illustrious citizen,
and permitting the body to lie in state in the rotunda of the Capitol
on Sunday. The immediate consideration of the resolution was asked
for. Mr. Gorman, of Maryland, the State which Douglass honored by his
birth, objected; and the resolution went over.

Douglass's funeral took place on February 25, 1895, at the
Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, and was
the occasion of a greater outpouring of colored people than had taken
place in Washington since the unveiling of the Lincoln emancipation
statue in 1878. The body was taken from Cedar Hill to the church at
half-past nine in the morning; and from that hour until noon thousands
of persons, including many white people, passed in double file through
the building and viewed the body, which was in charge of a guard of
honor composed of members of a colored camp of the Sons of Veterans.
The church was crowded when the services began, and several thousands
could not obtain admittance. Delegations, one of them a hundred
strong, were present from a dozen cities. Among the numerous floral
tributes was a magnificent shield of roses, orchids, and palms, sent
by the Haytian government through its minister. Another tribute was
from the son of his old master. Among the friends of the deceased
present were Senators Sherman and Hoar, Justice Harlan of the Supreme
Court, Miss Susan B. Anthony, and Miss May Wright Sewall, president
of the Women's National Council. The temporary pall-bearers were
ex-Senator B. K. Bruce and other prominent colored men of Washington.
The sermon was preached by Rev. J. G. Jenifer. John E. Hutchinson, the
last of the famous Hutchinson family of abolition singers, who with
his sister accompanied Douglass on his first voyage to England, sang
two requiem solos, and told some touching stories of their old-time
friendship. The remains were removed to Douglass's former home in
Rochester, where he was buried with unusual public honors.

In November, 1894, a movement was begun in Rochester, under the
leadership of J. W. Thompson, with a view to erect a monument in
memory of the colored soldiers and sailors who had fallen during the
Civil War. This project had the hearty support and assistance of
Douglass; and upon his death the plan was changed, and a monument to
Douglass himself decided upon. A contribution of one thousand dollars
from the Haytian government and an appropriation of three thousand
dollars from the State of New York assured the success of the plan.
September 15, 1898, was the date set for the unveiling of the
monument; but, owing to delay in the delivery of the statue, only a
part of the contemplated exercises took place. The monument, complete
with the exception of the statue which was to surmount it, was
formally turned over to the city, the presentation speech being made
by Charles P. Lee of Rochester. A solo and chorus composed for the
occasion were sung, an original poem read by T. Thomas Fortune, and
addresses delivered by John C. Dancy and John H. Smyth. Joseph H.
Douglass, a talented grandson of the orator, played a violin solo, and
Miss Susan B. Anthony recalled some reminiscences of Douglass in the
early anti-slavery days.

In June, 1899, the bronze statue of Douglass, by Sidney W. Edwards,
was installed with impressive ceremonies. The movement thus to
perpetuate the memory of Douglass had taken rise among a little band
of men of his own race, but the whole people of Rochester claimed
the right to participate in doing honor to their distinguished
fellow-citizen. The city assumed a holiday aspect. A parade of
military and civic societies was held, and an appropriate programme
rendered at the unveiling of the monument. Governor Roosevelt of New
York delivered an address; and the occasion took a memorable place in
the annals of Rochester, of which city Douglass had said, "I shall
always feel more at home there than anywhere else in this country."

In March, 1895, a few weeks after the death of Douglass, Theodore
Tilton, his personal friend for many years, published in Paris, of
which city he was then a resident, a volume of _Sonnets to the Memory
of Frederick Douglass_, from which the following lines are quoted as
the estimate of a contemporary and a fitting epilogue to this brief
sketch of so long and full a life:

"I knew the noblest giants of my day,
And _he_ was _of_ them--strong amid the strong:
But gentle too: for though he suffered wrong,
Yet the wrong-doer never heard him say,
'Thee also do I hate.' ...

A lover's lay--
No dirge--no doleful requiem song--
Is what I owe him; for I loved him long;
As dearly as a younger brother may.

Proud is the happy grief with which I sing;
For, O my Country! in the paths of men
There never walked a grander man than he!

He was a peer of princes--yea, a king!
Crowned in the shambles and the prison-pen!
The noblest Slave that ever God set free!"


The only original sources of information concerning the early life of
Frederick Douglass are the three autobiographies published by him
at various times; and the present writer, like all others who have
written of Mr. Douglass, has had to depend upon this personal record
for the incidents of Mr. Douglass's life in slavery. As to the second
period of his life, his public career as anti-slavery orator and
agitator, the sources of information are more numerous and varied. The
biographies of noted abolitionists whose lives ran from time to time
in parallel lines with his make very full reference to Douglass's
services in their common cause, the one giving the greatest detail
being the very complete and admirable _Life and Times of William Lloyd
Garrison_, by his sons, which is in effect an exhaustive history of
the Garrisonian movement for abolition.

The files of the _Liberator_, Mr. Garrison's paper, which can be
found in a number of the principal public libraries of the country,
constitute a vast storehouse of information concerning the labors of
the American Anti-slavery Society, with which Douglass was identified
from 1843 to 1847, the latter being the year in which he gave up
his employment as agent of the society and established his paper
at Rochester. Many letters from Mr. Douglass's pen appeared in the
_Liberator_ during this period.

Mr. Douglass's own memories are embraced in three separate volumes,
published at wide intervals, each succeeding volume being a revision
of the preceding work, with various additions and omissions.

I. _Narrative of Frederick Douglass_. Writen by himself. (Boston,
1845: The American Anti-slavery Society.) Numerous editions of this
book were printed, and translations published in Germany and in

II. _My Bondage and My Freedom_. (New York and Auburn, 1855: Miller,
Orton & Mulligan.) This second of Mr. Douglass's autobiographies has a
well-written and appreciative introduction by James M'Cune Smith
and an appendix containing extracts from Mr. Douglass's speeches on

III. _Recollections of the Anti-slavery Conflict_. By Samuel J. May.
(Boston, 1869: Fields, Osgood & Co.) Collected papers by a veteran
abolitionist; contains an appreciative sketch of Douglass.

IV. _History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America_. By
Henry Wilson. 3 vols. (Boston, 1872: James R. Osgood & Co.) The author
presents an admirable summary of the life and mission of Mr. Douglass.

V. _William Lloyd Garrison and His Times_. By Oliver Johnson.
(Boston, 1881: Houghton, Mifflin & Co.) One of the best works on the
anti-slavery agitation, by one of its most able, active and courageous

VI. _Century Magazine_, November, 1881, "My Escape from Slavery." By
Frederick Douglass.

VII. _Life and Times of Frederick Douglass_. Written by himself.
(Hartford, 1882: Park Publishing Company.)

VIII. _History of the Negro Race in America_. By George W. Williams.
2 vols. (New York, 1883: G. P. Putnam's Sons.) This exhaustive and
scholarly work contains an estimate of Douglass's career by an
Afro-American author.

IX. _The Life and Times of Wendell Phillips_. By George Lowell Austin.
(Boston, 1888: Lee & Shepard.) Contains a eulogy on Wendell Phillips
by Mr. Douglass.

X. _Life and Times of William Lloyd Garrison_. By his children. 4
vols. (New York, 1889: The Century Company. London: T. Fisher Unwin.)
Here are many details of the public services of Mr. Douglass,--his
relations to the Garrisonian abolitionists, his political views, his
oratory, etc.

XI. _The Cosmopolitan_, August, 1889. "Reminiscences." By Frederick
Douglass. In "The Great Agitation Series."

XII. _Frederick Douglass, the Colored Orator_. By Frederick May
Holland. (New York, 1891: Funk & Wagnalls.) This volume is one of the
series of "American Reformers," and with the exception of his own
books is the only comprehensive life of Douglass so far published. It
contains selections from many of his best speeches and a full list of
his numerous publications.

XIII. _Our Day_, August, 1894. "Frederick Douglass as Orator and
Reformer." By W. L. Garrison [(1838-1909), the first son and namesake
of the Abolitionist leader (1805-1879)].

XIV. _The Underground Railroad_. By William H. Siebert. With an
introduction by Albert Bushnell Hart. (New York, 1898: The Macmillan
Company.) Contains many references to Mr. Douglass's services in
aiding the escape of fugitive slaves.


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