Tag Archives: Frederick Douglass
Library Fire

The Congressional Library Burns

Today, the Library of Congress celebrates its 217th birthday. On April 24, 1800, President John Adams approved the appropriation of $5,000 for the purchase of “such books as may be necessary for the use of congress.”

On December 24, 1851, the largest fire in the Library’s history destroyed 35,000 books, about two–thirds of the Library’s 55,000 book collection, including two-thirds of Jefferson’s original transfer. Congress in 1852 quickly appropriated $168,700 to replace the lost books, but not for the acquisition of new materials. This marked the start of a conservative period in the Library’s administration by librarian John Silva Meehan and joint committee chairman James A. Pearce, who worked to restrict the Library’s activities.

Congress in 1852 quickly appropriated $168,700 to replace the lost books, but not for the acquisition of new materials. This marked the start of a conservative period in the Library’s administration by librarian John Silva Meehan and joint committee chairman James A. Pearce, who worked to restrict the Library’s activities.

Between 1865 and 1870, Congress appropriated funds for the construction of the Thomas Jefferson Building, placed all copyright registration and deposit activities under the Library’s control, and restored the Library’s international book exchange. The Library also acquired the vast libraries of both the Smithsonian and historian Peter Force, strengthening its scientific and Americana collections significantly. By 1876, the Library of Congress had 300,000 volumes and was tied with the Boston Public Library as the nation’s largest library.

When the Library moved from the Capitol building to its new headquarters in 1897, it had over 840,000 volumes, 40% of which had been acquired through copyright deposit.

The 1851 fire was reported in Frederick Douglass’s newspaper on January 8, 1852. At the time of the fire, the library was still part of the Capitol building.

Burning of the Congressional Library

On Wednesday morning, Dec. 24th (1851), a fire was discovered in the Library rooms of the Capitol at Washington. The alarm was immediately given, and the Fire department, promptly on the spot, used their utmost exertions to arrest the flames, but unhappily failed to do so before the splendid collection of books upon the shelves, was more than half consumed. The morning was an extremely frosty one, and the chill air and the ice-bound water seriously impeded operations. The President, the members of the Cabinet and of Congress , lent every assistance; and by their direction, the roof connecting with the rotunds, was torn away, and the remainder of the building saved. The fire was brought under control about noon. The origin of it is unknown.

The Library occupied three apartments in the main building. The main room was a very large one, ninety-two by thirty-four feet, with a gallery round it. There were six recesses, or alcoves, on either side. The number of volumes upon the shelves was about 55,000; all of them works of the highest value, and many of them wholly irreplaceable.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.
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Posse

Rebels Slaves Chasers Detained in Alexandria

One of the Washington letter-writers says:

Gen. Heinzelman has within the past few weeks added to the population of Alexandria several Virginians whose desire to recover fugitive slaves outran their discretion.

"Jewels" of the "1st Families" of Va., consisting of [slave] "chains, bracelets, & anklets"

“Jewels” of the “1st Families” of Va., consisting of [slave] “chains, bracelets, & anklets”

When they presented themselves at his headquarters in search of their lost bondsmen, he informed them that the soldiers of the National army were not slave-catchers, and when, satisfied that he meant what he said, they essayed to return, to their farms, he declared that he could not permit civilians to go beyond or to remain within his lines.

One of them has, in consequence, been a month in Alexandria waiting for the army to advance to the other side of his plantation. ‘Dark-skinned Union men’ continue to geek General Heintzelman’s camp, but fewer rebel owners visit him.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.

Source: Douglass’ Monthly, February 1862
Top Image: Posse pursuing a runaway slave by Bernarda Bryson, 1934 or 1935


Christiana-Tragedy

A Slave’s Allegiance to America

In discussing the indictment of colored men involved in the fatal conflict between escaped slaves and slave hunters at Christiana, the Frederick Douglass Paper said:

The basis of allegiance is protection. We owe allegiance to the government that protects us, but to the government that destroys us, we owe no allegiance. The only law which the alleged slave has a right to know anything about, is the law of nature. This is his only law.

The enactments of this government do not recognize him as a citizen, but as a thing. In the light of the law, a slave can no more commit treason than a horse or an ox can commit treason. A horse kicks out the brains of his master. Do you try the horse for treason? Then why the slave who does the same thing? You answer, because the slave is a man, and he is therefore responsible for his acts. The answer is sound.

The slave is a man, and ought not to be treated like a horse, but like a man, and his manhood is his justification for shooting down any creature who shall attempt to reduce him to the condition of a brute.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.

Source: Frederick Douglass Paper, September 25, 1851, “Freedom’s Battle at Christiana

Image Details: African-Americans firing on slave-catchers at the home of William Parker, near Christiana, Pa., 11 Sept. 1851; slave-hunters Edward Gorsuch and his son Dickerson, of Baltimore Co., Md., were killed and wounded. Illustration from William Stiles  Underground Railroad, published in 1872.


cabin

Advice for People of Moderate Fortune

Lydia Maria ChildIf you are about to furnish a house, do not spend all your money, be it much or little. Do not let the beauty of this thing, and the cheapness of that, tempt you to buy unnecessary articles. Dr. Franklin’s maxim was a wise one, “Nothing is cheap which you do not want.”

Buy merely what is absolutely necessary, and let experience of your wants and your means dictate what shall be afterwards obtained. If you spend all at first, you will find you have bought many things you do not want, and omitted many you do want. Begin cautiously. As riches increase, increase in hospitality and splendor; but it is always painful and inconvenient to decrease.
After all, these things are viewed in their proper light by the judicious and respectable. Neatness, tastefulness and good sense, may be shown in the management of a small household, and the arrangement of a little furniture, as well as upon a large scale. The consideration gained by living beyond one’s income, is not actually worth the trouble it costs. The glare there is about such false, wicked parade, is deceptive; it does not, in fact, procure valuable friends or extensive influence. More than that, it is wrong, morally wrong, so far as the individual is concerned; and injurious, beyond calculation, to the interests of our country. – To what are the increasing beggary and discouraged exertions of the present day owing? A multitude of causes no doubt tend to increase the evils, but the root of the whole matter is the extravagance of all classes of people!

We never shall be prosperous, till we have sufficient moral courage to make pride and vanity yield to the dictates of honesty and prudence. We never shall be free from embarrassment till we cease to be ashamed of industry and economy! Let woman aid in the needful reformation. Let their husbands and fathers see them happy without finery; and if their friends have, as is often the case, a foolish pride in seeing them decorated, let them silently and gradually check this felling, by showing that they have better means of commanding respect. Let the exercise of ingenuity, economy and neatness prove that good taste and gentility are attainable without great expense.


– Mrs. Lydia Maria Child

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.

Source: The North Star, June 16, 1848
Photo:  Historic American Buildings Survey Arthur C. Haskell, Photographer Oct. 17, 1935 (e) INT.- WEST WALL & FIREPLACE, SITTING ROOM – Timothy Wood House, Halifax, Plymouth County, MA


Frederick Douglass

Problems with New York’s Personal Liberty Bill of 1859

Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. He was editor and publisher of the Frederick Douglass Paper and Douglass’ Monthly.

This commentary appeared in the April 1859 issue of Douglass’ Monthly.

The Personal Liberty Bill

Nearly nine years after the passage by Congress of the Fugitive Slave Bill, nine years of insulting triumph on the part of the South, and shame-faced, puling submission on the part of the North, three of the free States, Vermont,Massachusetts and New York, have been roused by abolition appeals to take op the consideration of the subject whether their soil is their own, and whether their souls are their own, whether the State has eminent domain over the territory thereof, and the right to determine the status of all persons who may be within said territory.

These are grand, stirring questions. The stern Nemesis which watches over our commonwealth,is arousing the public sense to a consciousness of the fact, “for as much as ye did it unto the least of these, ye did it also unto me.” “Poor, and black, and friendless,as were the victims aimed at by the Act of Sept. 18th, 1850, yet that act pierced the heart of State sovereignty, and crushed thefree States beneath the iron heel of slavery.”

Vermont has passed her Liberty Bill, New York has under discussion, and Massachusetts will soon report and pass her Act. We have already printed the Bill now before our State Legislature. It is the same as that of Vermont down to the 6th section; we propose to examine this bill and see whether it be equal to the object it aims to compass.

“Sec. 6. Every person who may have been held as a slave, who shall come, or He brought, or be in this State with the consent of his or her alleged master or mistress, or who shall come or be brought or be in this State, shall be free.”

“Sec. 3. Whenever any person in this State shall be deprived of liberty, arrested or detained,on the ground that such person owes service or labor to another person, NOT AN INHABITANT OF THIS STATE, either party may claim a trial by jury,” &c.

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