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Chapter 12

With the full enfranchisement of his people, Douglass entered upon what may be called the third epoch of his career, that of fruition. Not every worthy life receives its reward in this world; but Douglass, having fought the good fight, was now singled out, by virtue of his prominence, for various honors and emoluments at the hands of the public. He was urged by many friends to take up his residence in some Southern district and run for Congress; but from modesty or some doubt of his fitness--which one would think he need not have felt--and the consideration that his people needed an advocate at the North to keep alive there the friendship and zeal for liberty that had accomplished so much for his race, he did not adopt the suggestion.

In 1860 [1870] Douglass moved to Washington, and began [took over] the publication of the _New National Era_, a weekly paper devoted to the interests of the colored race. The venture did not receive the support hoped for; and the paper was turned over to Douglass's two [oldest] sons, Lewis and Frederick, and was finally abandoned [in 1874], Douglass having sunk about ten thousand dollars in the enterprise. Later newspapers for circulation among the colored people have proved more successful; and it ought to be a matter of interest that the race which thirty years ago could not support one publication, edited by its most prominent man, now maintains several hundred newspapers which make their appearance regularly.

In 1871 Douglass was elected president of the Freedmans Bank. This ill-starred venture was then apparently in the full tide of prosperity, and promised to be a great lever in the uplifting of the submerged race. Douglass, soon after his election as president, discovered the insolvency of the institution, and insisted that it be closed up. The negro was in the hands of his friends, and was destined to suffer for their mistakes as well as his own.

Other honors that fell to Douglass were less empty than the presidency of a bankrupt bank. In 1870 he was appointed by President Grant a member of the Santo Domingo Commission, the object of which was to arrange terms for the annexation of the mulatto republic to the Union. Some of the best friends of the colored race, among them Senator Sumner, opposed this step; but Douglass maintained that to receive Santo Domingo as a State would add to its strength and importance. The scheme ultimately fell through, whether for the good or ill of Santo Domingo can best be judged when the results of more recent annexation schemes [1898: Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, and _de facto_ Cuba] become apparent. Douglass went to Santo Domingo on an American man-of-war, in the company of three other commissioners. In his _Life and Times_ he draws a pleasing contrast between some of his earlier experiences in travelling, and the terms of cordial intimacy upon which, as the representative of a nation which a few years before had denied him a passport, he was now received in the company of able and distinguished gentlemen.

On his return to the United States Douglass received from President Grant an appointment as member of the legislative council, or upper house of the legislature, of the District of Columbia, where he served for a short time, until other engagements demanded his resignation, [one of] his son[s] being appointed to fill out his term. To this appointment Douglass owed the title of "Honorable," subsequently applied to him.

In 1872 Douglass presided over and addressed a convention of colored men at New Orleans, and urged them to support President Grant for renomination. He was elected a presidential elector for New York, and on the meeting of the electoral college in Albany, after Grant's triumphant re-election, received a further mark of confidence and esteem in the appointment at the hands of his fellow-electors to carry the sealed vote to Washington. Douglass sought no personal reward for his services in this campaign, but to his influence was due the appointment of several of his friends to higher positions than had ever theretofore been held in this country by colored men.

When R. B. Hayes was nominated for President, Douglass again took the stump, and received as a reward the honorable and lucrative office of Marshal of the United States for the District of Columbia. This appointment was not agreeable to the white people of the District, whose sympathies were largely pro-slavery; and an effort was made to have its confirmation defeated in the Senate. The appointment was confirmed, however; and Douglass served his term of four years, in spite of numerous efforts to bring about his removal.

In 1879 the hard conditions under which the negroes in the South were compelled to live led to a movement to promote an exodus of the colored people to the North and West, in the search for better opportunities. The white people of the South, alarmed at the prospect of losing their labor, were glad to welcome Douglass when he went among them to oppose this movement, which he at that time considered detrimental to the true interests of the colored population.

Under the Garfield administration Douglass was appointed in May, 1881, recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia. He held this very lucrative office through the terms of Presidents Garfželd and Arthur and until removed by President Cleveland in 1886, having served nearly a year after Cleveland's inauguration. In 1889 he was appointed by President Harrison as minister resident and consul-general to the Republic of Hayti, in which capacity he acted until 1891, when he resigned and returned permanently to Washington. The writer has heard him speak with enthusiasm of the substantial progress made by the Haytians in the arts of government and civilization, and with indignation of what he considered slanders against the island, due to ignorance or prejudice. When it was suggested to Douglass that the Haytians were given to revolution as a mode of expressing disapproval of their rulers, he replied that a four years' rebellion had been fought and two Presidents assassinated in the United States during a comparatively peaceful political period in Hayti. His last official connection with the Black Republic was at the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893, where he acted as agent in charge of the Haytian Building and the very creditable exhibit therein contained. His stately figure, which age had not bowed, his strong dark face, and his head of thick white hair made him one of the conspicuous features of the Exposition; and many a visitor took advantage of the occasion to recall old acquaintance made in the stirring anti-slavery days.

In 1878 he revisited the Lloyd plantation in Maryland, where he had spent part of his youth, and an affecting meeting took place between him and Thomas Auld, whom he had once called master. Once in former years he had been sought out by the good lady who in his childhood had taught him to read. Nowhere more than in his own accounts of these meetings does the essentially affectionate and forgiving character of Douglass and his race become apparent, and one cannot refrain from thinking that a different state of affairs might prevail in the Southern States if other methods than those at present in vogue were used to regulate the relations between the two races and their various admixtures that make up the Southern population.

In June, 1879, a bronze bust of Douglass was erected in Sibley Hall of Rochester University as a tribute to one who had shed lustre on the city. In 1882 occurred the death of Douglass's first wife, whom he had married in New York immediately after his escape from slavery, and who had been his faithful companion through so many years of stress and struggle. In the same year his _Life and Times_ was published. In 1884 he married Miss Helen Pitts, a white woman of culture and refinement. There was some criticism of this step by white people who did not approve of the admixture of the races, and by colored persons who thought their leader had slighted his own people when he overlooked the many worthy and accomplished women among them. But Douglass, to the extent that he noticed these strictures at all, declared that he had devoted his life to breaking down the color line, and that he did not know any more effectual way to accomplish it; that he was white by half his blood, and, as he had given most of his life to his mothers race, he claimed the right to dispose of the remnant as he saw fit.

The latter years of his life were spent at his beautiful home known as Cedar Hill, on Anacostia Heights, near Washington, amid all

  "that which should accompany old age,
  As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends."
He possessed strong and attractive social qualities, and his home formed a Mecca for the advanced and aspiring of his race. He was a skilful violinist, and derived great pleasure from the valuable instrument he possessed. A wholesome atmosphere always surrounded him. He had never used tobacco or strong liquors, and was clean of speech and pure in life.

He died at his home in Washington, February 20, 1895. He had been perfectly well during the day, and was supposed to be in excellent health. He had attended both the forenoon and afternoon sessions of the Women's National Council, then in session at Washington, and had been a conspicuous figure in the audience. On his return home, while speaking to his wife in the hallway of his house, he suddenly fell, and before assistance could be given he had passed away.

His death brought forth many expressions from the press of the land, reflecting the high esteem in which he had been held by the public for a generation. In various cities meetings were held, at which resolutions of sorrow and appreciation were passed, and delegations appointed to attend his funeral. In the United States Senate a resolution was offered reciting that in the person of the late Frederick Douglass death had borne away a most illustrious citizen, and permitting the body to lie in state in the rotunda of the Capitol on Sunday. The immediate consideration of the resolution was asked for. Mr. Gorman, of Maryland, the State which Douglass honored by his birth, objected; and the resolution went over.

Douglass's funeral took place on February 25, 1895, at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, and was the occasion of a greater outpouring of colored people than had taken place in Washington since the unveiling of the Lincoln emancipation statue in 1878. The body was taken from Cedar Hill to the church at half-past nine in the morning; and from that hour until noon thousands of persons, including many white people, passed in double file through the building and viewed the body, which was in charge of a guard of honor composed of members of a colored camp of the Sons of Veterans. The church was crowded when the services began, and several thousands could not obtain admittance. Delegations, one of them a hundred strong, were present from a dozen cities. Among the numerous floral tributes was a magnificent shield of roses, orchids, and palms, sent by the Haytian government through its minister. Another tribute was from the son of his old master. Among the friends of the deceased present were Senators Sherman and Hoar, Justice Harlan of the Supreme Court, Miss Susan B. Anthony, and Miss May Wright Sewall, president of the Women's National Council. The temporary pall-bearers were ex-Senator B. K. Bruce and other prominent colored men of Washington. The sermon was preached by Rev. J. G. Jenifer. John E. Hutchinson, the last of the famous Hutchinson family of abolition singers, who with his sister accompanied Douglass on his first voyage to England, sang two requiem solos, and told some touching stories of their old-time friendship. The remains were removed to Douglass's former home in Rochester, where he was buried with unusual public honors.

In November, 1894, a movement was begun in Rochester, under the leadership of J. W. Thompson, with a view to erect a monument in memory of the colored soldiers and sailors who had fallen during the Civil War. This project had the hearty support and assistance of Douglass; and upon his death the plan was changed, and a monument to Douglass himself decided upon. A contribution of one thousand dollars from the Haytian government and an appropriation of three thousand dollars from the State of New York assured the success of the plan. September 15, 1898, was the date set for the unveiling of the monument; but, owing to delay in the delivery of the statue, only a part of the contemplated exercises took place. The monument, complete with the exception of the statue which was to surmount it, was formally turned over to the city, the presentation speech being made by Charles P. Lee of Rochester. A solo and chorus composed for the occasion were sung, an original poem read by T. Thomas Fortune, and addresses delivered by John C. Dancy and John H. Smyth. Joseph H. Douglass, a talented grandson of the orator, played a violin solo, and Miss Susan B. Anthony recalled some reminiscences of Douglass in the early anti-slavery days.

In June, 1899, the bronze statue of Douglass, by Sidney W. Edwards, was installed with impressive ceremonies. The movement thus to perpetuate the memory of Douglass had taken rise among a little band of men of his own race, but the whole people of Rochester claimed the right to participate in doing honor to their distinguished fellow-citizen. The city assumed a holiday aspect. A parade of military and civic societies was held, and an appropriate programme rendered at the unveiling of the monument. Governor Roosevelt of New York delivered an address; and the occasion took a memorable place in the annals of Rochester, of which city Douglass had said, "I shall always feel more at home there than anywhere else in this country."

In March, 1895, a few weeks after the death of Douglass, Theodore Tilton, his personal friend for many years, published in Paris, of which city he was then a resident, a volume of _Sonnets to the Memory of Frederick Douglass_, from which the following lines are quoted as the estimate of a contemporary and a fitting epilogue to this brief sketch of so long and full a life:

"I knew the noblest giants of my day, And he was of them--strong amid the strong: But gentle too: for though he suffered wrong, Yet the wrong-doer never heard him say, 'Thee also do I hate.' ...

A lover's lay-- No dirge--no doleful requiem song-- Is what I owe him; for I loved him long; As dearly as a younger brother may.

Proud is the happy grief with which I sing; For, O my Country! in the paths of men There never walked a grander man than he!

He was a peer of princes--yea, a king! Crowned in the shambles and the prison-pen! The noblest Slave that ever God set free!"

Charles W. Chesnutt

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