Tag Archives: The North Star
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To Our Oppressed Countrymen (December 1847)

This message, directly from Frederick Douglass, defined his mission in producing The North Star newspaper. It appeared in the first issue that was published on December 3, 1847:

To Our Oppressed Countrymen: We solemnly dedicate the “NORTH STAR” to the cause of our long oppressed and plundered fellow countrymen. May God bless the offering to your good! It shall fearlessly assert your rights, faithfully proclaim your wrongs, and earnestly demand for you instant and even-handed justice. Giving no quarter to slavery at the South, it will hold no truce with oppressors at the North. While it shall boldly advocate emancipation for our enslaved brethren, it will omit no opportunity to gain for the nominally free, complete enfranchisement. Every effort to injure or degrade you or your cause – originating wheresoever, or with whomsoever – shall find in it a constant, unswerving and inflexible foe.

We shall energetically assail the ramparts of Slavery and Prejudice, be they composed of church or state, and seek the destruction of every refuge of lies, under which tyranny may aim to conceal and protect itself.

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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Fugative Slave Act 1850

The Manstealing Law Explained

The Fugitive Slave Law or Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern slave-holding interests and Northern Free-Soilers.

This was one of the most controversial elements of the 1850 compromise and heightened Northern fears of a “slave power conspiracy”. It required that all escaped slaves were, upon capture, to be returned to their masters and that officials and citizens of free states had to cooperate in this law. Abolitionists nicknamed it the “Bloodhound Law” for the dogs that were used to track down runaway slaves.

In Frederick Douglass’ newspaper, The North Star, the editors referred to use of the law as “Manstealing” in reference to the Bible verse, Exodus 21:16 that reads: And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

An April 24, 1851 poster warning the "colored people of Boston" about policemen acting as slave catchers.

An April 24, 1851 poster warning the “colored people of Boston” about policemen acting as slave catchers.

We copy from the Lowell American the following abstract:

It is necessary that the people shall be acquainted with the kidnapping law recently enacted by Congress, and as we cannot keep in type the entire law, we have made a brief but correct synopsis of it. Here it is:

But in the first place let us give Daniel Webster’s endorsement of the bill. The following is from his speech of the 7th of March, 1850:

“Every member of every Northern Legislature is bound by oath to support the Constitution of the United States; and this article of the Constitution which says to these States that they shall deliver up fugitive slaves is as binding an honor and in conscience as any other article; and no man fulfils his duty, under his oath, in any State Legislature who sets himself to work to find excuses, evasions, escapes from his constitutional duty. My friend at the head of the Judiciary Committee has a bill upon the subject now before the Senate, with some amendments to it which have been offered. I propose to support that bill with all proper authority and provisions in it, to the fullest extent – to the fullest extent.”

Now here is the substance of the “Bill”:

Duties of Commissioners.
Commissioners who have been or shall be appointed by the Circuit Courts of the United States, are authorized and required to exercise and discharge all the powers and duties conferred by this act. – Sec. 1.

Appointment of Commissioners.
The Superior Court of each organized Territory shall have the same power to appoint Commissioners as the Circuit Court of the U.S., and the commissioners appointed by these Superior courts are to possess the powers conferred upon those appointed by the Circuit Courts. – Sec . 2.

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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Slave quarters on a plantation, possibly in Beaufort, South Carolina

The Political Power of Slave Masters (1848)

This report appeared in Frederick Douglass’s The North Star on October 20, 1848.

In 1847, with Douglass and M.R. Delaney as editors, The North Star was established: “…It has long been our anxious wish to see, in this slave-holding, slave-trading, and negro-hating land, a printing-press and paper, permanently established, under the complete control and direction of the immediate victims of slavery and oppression…”

The Slave Power – Politically

It appeared by the last census, that the number of slaves in the U. States, was 2,487,113.

Estimating ten slaves to one master, there were only 248,711 slaveholders. Of the legal voters of the United States, the slaveholders are about as 1 to 20.

Three-fifths of 2,487,113, is 1,492,255, which divided by 70,680, the present ratio of representation, makes 21 – the exact number of members on the floor of the House of Representatives, in Congress, sent there, under Section 2d of the Constitution, to represent the Slave Power.

The Senate has a Veto on every law, and as one-half of that body are slaveholders, it follows, of course, that no law can be passed without their consent.

No bill has passed the Senate, nor a treaty been ratified, since the organization of the government, but by the votes of slaveholders.

Appointments are made by the President, with the consent of the Senate, and of course the slaveholders have, and always have had, a veto on every appointment.

In consequence of the peculiar apportionment of Presidential Electors among the States, and the operation of the rule of federal numbers, whereby, for the purpose of estimating the representative population, five slaves are counted as three white men, most extraordinary results are exhibited at every election for President .

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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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


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Presbyterians vs. Slavery in 1849

Some of the New School Synods and Presbyteries of the West, seem but little satisfied with the Assembly at Philadelphia.

Resolutions have been adopted by the Ottowa (Ill,) Presbytery recommending the exclusion of slave holders from the pulpit and the communion table – disapproving the course pursued by the General Assembly, and declaring the formal withdrawal of the Presbytery from that body.

And in the Synod of Illinois, a resolution was reported and discussed declaring slavery a sin, and the action of the late General Assembly in reference to this matter so unsatisfactory, that the Synod of Illinois ought publicly and solemnly to separate itself from that body.

After much discussion, the original proposition was modified by the substitution of the declaration – That, while they feel very anxious to be delivered from all participation in the sin of slavery, they do not feel, at present, willing to be separated from the General Assembly.

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, December 14, 1849


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