Tag Archives: Frederick Douglass

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.


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.



James Wagoner Sold Into Slavery

This 1838  map by Joseph Gest is included to illustrate the proximity of where James Wagoner was kidnapped in Cincinnati, Ohio and sold in Newport, Kentucky   —  right across the river.

From the July 1860 issue of Douglass’ Monthly

Readers will recollect the case of Wagoner, a free colored man kidnapped from Cincinnati, taken over into Kentucky, where he and his two kidnappers were arrested and put in jail. The kidnappers were set at liberty and the free citizen of Ohio held as a slave. The particulars were copied from the Cincinnati Gazette.

DM-July-1860On Monday Wagoner was brought before the Mayor of Newport on a writ of habeas corpus, and it was proved that he was born in Ohio, of free parents, and that he had never been in Virginia. The statement of two persons from Virginia was taken that Wagoner was a fugitive slave, the Mayor so decided, and Wagoner was hurried by the Sheriff to the auction block, and sold to Dr. Foster of Newport for $100, and afterward the enslaved negro could be neither seen nor heard of.

The Cincinnati Gazette is quite aroused by so diabolical an outrage, which is but one of a series the people of that city are in a good part responsible for by their, frequent and meek submission to them. Official and unofficial kidnappers prey upon colored people there with about as much impunity as in Dahomy. Says the Gazette:

Here is a free man, a man born of parents legally freed and residing free in Ohio, kidnapped, kept in jail six months, and finally sold for jail fees while his kidnappers were allowed to escape. Of the disgraceful alacrity which certain individuals in Newport have manifested, we cannot trust out selves to speak. Not only has a grievous and irreparable wrong been done to Wagoner, but the honor of the great State of Kentucky, in whose name the wrong has been committed, has been sullied, and the dignity of the State of Ohio insulted. For an Ohioan has been made a slave by tricks which would disgrace a ‘shyster’ before that lowest of human tribunals, the Tombs Police Court in New York.

We trust our readers whose blood will be stirred by the recital of this wrong, will not forget that the Democratic party is the champion and defender of that system which this whole business is but the legitimate outgrowth. Their indignation should not vent itself in frothy declamation and violent invective, but should crystallize into efficient action.


Wagoner To Be Returned To Ohio

The Cincinnati Commercial of the 8th has the following in regard to the kidnapped and sold James Wagoner:

His purchaser, Dr. J. Q A. Foster, has given Geo. P. Webster, Esq. , Attorney in the case, an order upon the jailor of Lexington, to surrender Wagoner upon the payment of certain fees and costs. Mr. Webster leaves this morning for that place, and will probably return this evening with Wagoner, who will be placed in jail to await the next sitting of the Circuit Court in this city.

Source:  Douglass’ Monthly – July, 1860

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.

Cleveland Park

An Octoroon in Cleveland

The residents upon Prospect, Erie, and Huron streets and that vicinity may have frequently met in their walks, or seen pass their doors, a bright, intelligent, active little girl, with long, black curls, a complexion not yellow or brown, but a combination of pure black and white, she being always accompanied by a grave and dignified colored servant of perhaps 45 years of age. There is a family history connected with that little girl which will not be uninteresting.

The girl is an Octoroon, and the daughter of a very wealthy Mississippi planter, who has a plantation about ten miles from Natchez, where his family of slaves number about two hundred. This gentleman is now about 80 years old, and the girl about eleven. She was the daughter of a favorite slave of his, and he desired to have her well educated and bro’t up away from the influences of slavery, for, while he is a large slaveholder himself, he is not blind to the disadvantages under which she would necessarily undergo if she were to remain in a slave State. For several years she has lived in a separate establishment in Natchez devoted exclusively to her use.

This year her father concluded to send her to the North to be educated. Accordingly, in April last his agent came to Cincinnati in search of a favorable location. He was referred, by Cincinnati parties, to Rev. J.C.White of this city, and came to see him accordingly. Arriving here upon a Saturday, he made inquiries the next day for Mr. W.’s church, and attended service there in the evening. It so happened that the Reverend gentleman that evening preached upon slavery,and those acquainted with his style, need not be told that his bold and scathing denunciation of the system was not calculated to prejudice a Southerner in his favor. The agent listened for a time, and left the church in high dudgeon.