Letter to William Lloyd Garrison (April 16, 1846)

Frederick Douglass

Citation Information:  Frederick Douglass, [Letter], Glasgow (Scotland), April I6, 1846. To William Lloyd Garrison. Foner, Philip (ed). Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass. New York: International Publishers, 1950. Vol. I, p. 149.

Frederick Douglass
Glasgow (Scotland)
April I6, 1846

To William Lloyd Garrison

My dear friend:

  1. I have given up the field of public letter-writing to my friend Buffum, who will tell you how we are getting on; but I cannot refrain from sending you a line, as a mere private correspondent. My health is good, my spirit is bright, and I am enjoying myself as well as one can be expected, when separated from home by three thousand miles of deep blue ocean. I long to be at home—”home, sweet, sweet home! Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home.” Nor is it merely to enjoy the pleasure of family and friends, that I wish to be at home: it is to be in the field, at work, preaching to the best of my ability salvation from slavery, to a nation fast hastening to destruction. I know it will be hard to endure the kicks and cuffs of the pro-slavery multitude, to which I shall be subjected; but then, I glory in the battle, as well as in the victory.
  2. I have been frequently counselled to leave America altogether, and make Britain my home. But this I cannot do, unless it shall be absolutely necessary for my personal freedom. I doubt not that my old master is in a state of mind quite favorable to an attempt at re-capture. Not that he wishes to make money by selling me, or by holding me himself, but to feed his revenge. I know he feels keenly my exposures, and nothing would afford him more pleasure than to have me in his power. He has suffered severe goadings, or he would not have broken the silence of seven years, to exculpate himself from the charges I have brought against him, by telling a positive lie. He says he can put his hand upon the Bible, and, with a clear conscience, swear he never struck me, or told any one else to do so! The same conscientious man could put his hand into my pocket, and rob me of my hard earnings; and, with a clear conscience, swear he had a right not only to my earnings, but to my body, soul and spirit! We may, in this case, reverse the old adage—”He that will lie, will steal”—and make it, “He that will steal, will lie”—especially when, by lying, he may hope to throw a veil over his stealing. This positive denial, on his part, rather staggered me at the first. I had no idea the gentleman would tell a right down untruth. He has certainly forgotten when a lamp was lost from the carriage, without my knowledge, that he came to the stable with the cart-whip, and with its heavy lash beat me over the head and shoulders, to make me tell how it was lost, until his brother Edward, who was at St. Michael’s, on a visit at the time, came forward, and besought him to desist; and that he beat me until he wearied himself. My memory, in such matters, is better than his. One would think, from his readiness to swear that he never struck me, that he held it to be wrong to do so. He does not deny that he used to tie up “a cousin of mine, and lash her, and in justification of his bloody conduct quote, ‘He that knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.’ ” He finds fault with me for not mentioning his promising to set me free at 25. I did not tell many things which I might have told. Had I told of that promise, I should have also told that he had never set one of his slaves free; and I had no reason to believe he would treat me with any more justice and humanity, than any other one of his slaves. But enough.
  3. Scotland is in a blaze of anti-slavery agitation—The Free Church and Slavery are the all-engrossing topics. It is the same old question of Christian union with slaveholders—old with us, but new with most people here. The discussion is followed by the same result as in America, when it was first mooted in the New-England Convention. There is such a sameness in the arguments, pro and con, that if you could be landed on this side of the Atlantic, without your knowledge, you would scarcely distinguish between our meetings here, and our meetings at home. The Free Church is in a terrible stew. Its leaders thought to get the slaveholders’ money and bring it home, and escape censure. They had no idea that they would be followed and exposed. Its members are leaving it, like rats escaping from a sinking ship. There is a strong determination to have the slave money sent back, and the union broken up. In this feeling all religious denominations participate. Let slavery be hemmed in on every side by the moral and religious sentiments of mankind, and its death is certain.

I am always yours,
Frederick Douglass
The Liberator, May 15, 1846