Letter to the Editor of the London Times (April 3, 1847)

Frederick Douglass

Citation Information:  Frederick Douglass, Brown’s Temperance Hotel, Liverpool (England), April 3, 1847, Letter. To the Editor of the London Times. Foner, Philip (ed). Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass. New York: International Publishers, 1950. Vol. I, p. 233.

Frederick Douglass
Brown’s Temperance Hotel, Liverpool (England)
April 3, 1847

To the Editor of the London Times


  1. I take up my pen to lay before you a few facts respecting an unjust proscription to which I find myself subjected on board the steam-ship Cambria, to sail from this port at 10 o’clock to-morrow morning for Boston, United States.
  2. On the 4th of March last, in company with Mr. George Moxhay, of the Hall of Commerce, London, I called upon Mr. Ford, the London agent of the Cunard line of steamers, for the purpose of securing a passage on board the steam-ship Cambria to Boston, United States. On inquiring the amount of the passage I was told 40l. 19s.; I inquired further, if a second class passage could be obtained. He answered no, there was but one fare, all distinctions having been abolished. I then gave to him 40l. 19s. and received from him in return a ticket entitling me to berth No. 72 on board the steam-ship Cambria, at the same time asking him if my colour would prove any barrier to my enjoying all the rights and privileges enjoyed by other passengers. He said “No.” I then left the office, supposing all well, and thought nothing more of the matter until this morning, when in company with a few friends, agreeably to public notice, I went on board the Cambria with my luggage, and on inquiring for my berth, found, to my surprise and mortification, that it had been given to another passenger, and was told that the agent in London had acted without authority in selling me the ticket. I expressed my surprise and disappointment to the captain, and inquired what I had better do in the matter. He suggested my accompanying him to the office of the agent in Water-street, Liverpool, for the purpose of ascertaining what could be done. On stating the fact of my having purchased the ticket of the London agent, Mr. M’Iver (the Liverpool agent) answered that the London agent, in selling me the ticket, had acted without authority, and that I should not go on board the ship unless I agreed to take my meals alone, not to mix with the saloon company, and to give up the berth for which I had paid. Being without legal remedy, and anxious to return to the United States, I have felt it due to my own rights as a man, as well as to the honour and dignity of the British public, to lay these facts before them, sincerely believing that the British public will pronounce a just verdict on such proceedings. I have travelled in this country 19 months, and have always enjoyed equal rights and privileges with other passengers, and it was not until I turned my face towards America that I met anything like proscription on account of my colour.

Yours respectfully,

Frederick Douglass

London Times, April 6, 1847