Letter to Francis Jackson (January 29, 1846)

Frederick Douglass

Citation Information:  Frederick Douglass, [Letter], Royal Hotel Dundee, Scotland, January 29, 1846. To Francis Jackson. Foner, Philip (ed). Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass. New York: International Publishers, 1950. Vol. I, p. 135.

Frederick Douglass

Royal Hotel Dundee, Scotland

29th Jan. 1846

To Francis Jackson

My dear friend Jackson:

  1. I have been promising myself the pleasure of sending you a line from this side the sea, but have been compelled to deny myself in consequence of immediate and pressing engagements here. If you demand an apology for the liberty I am now about to take, I beg you to do what I feel confident you are seldom inclined to do—namely, look over the many acts of kindness you have performed toward myself and the people with whom I am identified. These acts justify me in thinking you will not object to having a line from me. From the first day I stepped out of obscurity on the anti-slavery platform at Nantucket to the day I stepped on the deck of the Cambria for these shores you stood by me to encourage, strengthen, and defend me from the assaults of my foes, and the foes of my race. I will not trouble you with any eulogy, for I know such would be disagreeable to your ears, but you must allow me to tell you that your acts are not forgotten. When I was a stranger, rough, unpolished, just from the bellows-handle in Richmond’s brass foundry in New Bedford, when I was scarce able to write two sentences of the English language correctly, you took me into your drawing room, welcomed me to your table, put me in your best bed, and treated me in every way as an equal brother at a time when to do so was to expose yourself to the hot displeasure of nearly all your neighbours. These things I still remember, and it affords me great pleasure to speak of them. Pardon me for reminding you of these things now.
  2. I am now as you will perceive by the date of this letter in Scotland, almost every hill, river, mountain and lake of which has been made classic by the heroic deeds of her noble sons. Scarcely a stream but has been poured into song, or a hill that is not associated with some fierce and bloody conflict between liberty and slavery. I had a view the other day of what are called the Grampion mountains that divide eastern Scotland from the west. I was told that here the ancient crowned heads used to meet, contend and struggle in deadly conflict for supremacy, causing those grand old hills to run blood-warming cold steel in the others heart. My soul sickens at the thought, yet I see in myself all those elements of character which were I to yield to their promptings might lead me to deeds as bloody as those at which my soul now sickens and from which I now turn with disgust and shame. Thank God liberty is no longer to be contended for and gained by instruments of death. A higher, a nobler, a mightier than carnal weapon is placed into our hands—one which hurls defiance at all the improvements of carnal warfare. It is the righteous appeal to the understanding and the heart—with this we can withstand the most fiery of all the darts of perdition itself. I see that America is boasting of her naval, and military power—let her boast—she may build her walls and her forts making them proof against ball and bomb. But while there is a single voice in her midst to charge home upon her the duty of emancipation, neither her army nor her navy can protect her from the gnawing of a guilty conscience.
  3. I am travelling in company with my good friend James N. Buffum. Our meetings here have been of the most soul cheering character. The present position of the free Church in Scotland makes it important to expend as much labor here as possible. You know they sent delegates to the United States to raise money to build their churches and to pay their ministers. They succeeded in getting about four thousand pounds sterling. Well, our efforts are directed to making them disgorge their ill-gotten gain—return it to the Slaveholders. Our rallying cry is “No union with Slaveholders and send back the blood-stained money.” Under these rallying cries, old Scotland boils like a pot. I half think if the free Church had for a moment supposed that her conduct would have been arraigned before the Scottish people by thorough Garrisonians as H. C. Wright, James N. Buffum and myself, she would never have taken the money. She thought to get the gold and nobody see her. It was a sad mistake. It would indeed be a grand anti-slavery triumph if we could get her to send back the money. It would break upon the confounded Slaveholders and their [allies] like a clap from the sky. We shall continue to deal our blows upon them—crying out disgorge—disgorge—disgorge your horrid plunder and to this cry the great mass of the people have cried Amen, Amen.
  4. I have disposed of nearly all the first Edition of my Narrative and am publishing a second which will be out about the sixteenth of February. I realize enough from it to meet my expenses. I shall probably remain in Scotland till the middle of March. I shall then proceed to England, as I have not yet delivered a single lecture on Slavery in that country. It is quite an advantage to be a n r here. I find I am hardly black enough for British taste, but by keeping my hair as woolly as possible I make out to pass for at least for half a Negro at any rate. My good friend Buffum finds the tables turned upon him here completely— the people lavish nearly all their attention on the Negro. I can easily understand that such a state of things would greatly embarrass a person with less sense than he, but he stems the current thus far nobly. I have received letters from America expressing fears that I may be spoiled by the attention which I am receiving—well ‘tis possible—but if I thought it probable, the next steamer should bring me home to encounter again the kicks and cuffs of pro-slavery. Indeed I shall rejoice in the day that shall see me again by your side battling the enemy, and I should rejoice in it though I were to be subjected to all the regulations of color-phobia with which we used [to] encounter. I glory in the fight as well as in the victory. Make my love to all your family.

Gratefully yours, Frederick Douglass

Antislavery Collection, Boston Public Library