Letter to William A. White (July 30, 1846)

Frederick Douglass

Citation Information:  Frederick Douglass, [Letter], Edinburgh, Scotland, July 30, 1846. To William A. White. Foner, Philip (ed). Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass. New York: International Publishers, 1950. Vol. I, p. 181.

Frederick Douglass
Edinburgh, Scotland
30th July 1846

To William A. White

My Dear William:

  • I dreamed last night that you would not be angry at receiving a letter from your friend Frederick Douglass. It may be all a dream, yet for once I feel like acting under the direction of a dream. I have thought of you a thousand times since I left the U.S. and have as often promised myself the pleasure of writing to you—but somehow or other, I have managed to postpone it until now I am prompted by a dream. That you may the more readily excuse me for presuming to dream of you I will mention that I went to bed thinking about Pendleton Indianna [sic]. You may remember such a place, and also certain events which transpired in that region in the summer of 1843. All dreams aside I shall never forget those days and I may add those nights. I shall never forget how like two very brothers we were ready to dare, do, and even die for each other. Tragic awfully so—yet I laugh always when I think how comic I must have looked when running before the mob, darkening the air with the mud from my feet. How I looked running you can best describe but how you looked bleeding—I shall always remember. You had left home and a life of ease and even luxury that you might do something toward breaking the fetters of the Slave and elevating the despised black man. And this too against the wishes of your father and many of your friends. When I thought I did indeed wish to bleed in your stead. Such a noble blood—so warm so generous—was too holy to be poured out by the rough hand of that infernal mob. Dear William, from that hour you have been loved by Frederick Douglass.
  • I hold you in grateful and affectionate remembrance, and though I have not written to you before, I assure you it has not been for want of the disposition. Among those who stand forth prominently in behalf of the Antislavery cause, I looked to none upon whom I can rely in the trial hour more than yourself. I am with you in spirit, and shall welcome the day which shall again find me by your side in this good cause. I write thus freely to you because I know you to be above the miserable and contemptible prejudices, too common even among those who claim to regard the Negro as a brother. I could say many things to you about my journeys here, but I prefer to write from within rather than from without—but enough.
  • What is to become of Old Massachusetts? I have nearly lost all confidence in her honesty, fidelity and love of liberty. Her doom is sealed, her glory has departed. You have labored nobly, and faithfully for her salvation, but there was not enough of moral life within her borders to save her from destruction. The American government is now in the piratical grasp of Texas, and possessing all the money and patronage. Our Massachusetts politicians will follow her in her atrocious robbery of Mexico, like sharks in the bloody wake of a slave ship. Money and office is the order of the day with them, and for these they seem willing to go to perdition, and if need be drag every one else after them. Who would have believed twelve months ago, that the Whig governor of Massachusetts would be seen calling upon the free citizens of that State to leave their homes, families and friends to go and fight the plundering battles of Slave holding Texas? As low as my opinion of the Honesty sincerity and uprightness of that governor was, I should have repelled such a prediction as altogether unjust, and a malicious attempt to injure the character of Governor Briggs. He ought [to be] hurled from his place as quick as possible.
  • I am more than ever convinced that New England can only be saved by a dissolution of the American Union. Three years from this time will see the seat of the American government removed from Washington into the South west for the accommodation of Slave holding Texas, and as many more states of which the U. S. shall find it convenient to rob Mexico. I need not dwell upon this subject. I know you must feel the degradation of your state keenly. I will not however despair. There is yet a glorious phalanx of noble men in New England whose mighty souls if once kindled by the holy fire of freedom will consume every thing of the hay, wood and stubble of pro slavery by which they are surrounded. Go forth then, go forth, and scatter your eloquence like sparks from the smitten steel. It will have its influence.

Freedom’s battle once begun

Bequeathed from bleeding sire to son

Though baffled oft, is ever won.

  • You will perceive that I am now in Edinburgh. It is the capital of Scotland, and is justly regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. I never saw one with which for beauty elegance and grandeur to compare it. I have no time even had I the ability to describe it. You must come and see it if you ever visit this country. You will be delighted with it I am sure. The Monument to Sir Walter Scott, on Princes Street is just one conglomeration of architectural beauties. The Calton Hill, Salisbury Craggs and Arthur Seat give the city advantages over any city I have ever visited in this or in your country. I enjoy every thing here which may be enjoyed by those of a paler hue—no distinction here. I have found myself in the society of the Combes, the Crowe’s and the Chamber’s, the first people of this city and no one seemed alarmed by my presence.
  • I shall leave here for London on Saturday, first of August. I hope to meet Mr. Garrison there. I long to see a face which I have seen in America. I indulged a hope of seeing you over here this summer. I suppose there is no prospect of your being over now, it is so late in the season. Do tell me is it true that you are married. I think I heard you were. If you are I am glad of it. If you are not I hope you will be soon. I want to see more William A. Whites in the world as well as to see those happy who are already here.
  • William, do you think it would be safe for me to come home this fall? Would master Hugh stand much chance in Mass? Think he could take me from the old Bay State? The old fellow is evidently anxious to get Hold of me. Staying in this country will not be apt to increase his love for me. I am playing the mischief with the character of Slave holders in this land. The[y] will find the atmosphere very hot here for them. The Rev. Thomas Smyth D. D. of Charleston South Carolina has been kept out of every pulpit here. I think I have been partly the means of it. He is terrible mad with me for it. Pardon this poorly written scrawl. I have not time to correct the spelling or composition. It comes quick from pen as it comes warm from my heart.

Sincerely yours,

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass Mss., Douglass Memorial Home, Anacostia, D.C.