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Chapter 24

_Twenty-One Months in Great Britain_


The allotments of Providence, when coupled with trouble and
anxiety, often conceal from finite vision the wisdom and goodness
in which they are sent; and, frequently, what seemed a harsh and
invidious dispensation, is converted by after experience into a
happy and beneficial arrangement. Thus, the painful liability to
be returned again to slavery, which haunted me by day, and
troubled my dreams by night, proved to be a necessary step in the
path of knowledge and usefulness. The writing of my pamphlet, in
the spring of 1845, endangered my liberty, and led me to seek a
refuge from republican slavery in monarchical England. A rude,
uncultivated fugitive slave was driven, by stern necessity, to
that country to which young American gentlemen go to increase
their stock of knowledge, to seek pleasure, to have their rough,
democratic manners softened by contact with English aristocratic
refinement. On applying for a passage to England, on board the
"Cambria", of the Cunard line, my friend, James N. Buffum, of
informed that I could not be received on board as a cabin
passenger. American prejudice against color triumphed over
British liberality and civilization, and erected a color test and
condition for crossing the sea in the cabin of a British vessel.
The insult was keenly felt by my white friends, but to me, it was
common, expected, and therefore, a thing of no great consequence,
whether I went in the cabin or in the steerage. Moreover, I felt
that if I could not go into the first cabin, first-cabin
passengers could come into the second cabin, and the result
justified my anticipations to the fullest extent. Indeed, I soon
found myself an object of more general interest than I wished to
be; and so far from being degraded by being placed in the second
cabin, that part of the ship became the scene of as much pleasure
and refinement, during the voyage, as the cabin itself. The
Hutchinson Family, celebrated vocalists--fellow-passengers--often
came to my rude forecastle deck, and sung their sweetest songs,
enlivening the place with eloquent music, as well as spirited
conversation, during the voyage. In two days after leaving
Boston, one part of the ship was about as free to me as another.
My fellow-passengers not only visited me, but invited me to visit
them, on the saloon deck. My visits there, however, were but
seldom. I preferred to live within my privileges, and keep upon
my own premises. I found this quite as much in accordance with
good policy, as with my own feelings. The effect was, that with
the majority of the passengers, all color distinctions were flung
to the winds, and I found myself treated with every mark of
respect, from the beginning to the end of the voyage, except in a
single instance; and in that, I came near being mobbed, for
complying with an invitation given me by the passengers, and the
captain of the "Cambria," to deliver a lecture on slavery. Our
New Orleans and Georgia passengers were pleased to regard my
lecture as an insult offered to them, and swore I should not
speak. They went so far as to threaten to throw me overboard,
and but for the firmness of Captain Judkins, prob<286>ably would
have (under the inspiration of _slavery_ and _brandy_) attempted
to put their threats into execution. I have no space to describe
this scene, although its tragic and comic peculiarities are well
worth describing. An end was put to the _melee_, by the
captain's calling the ship's company to put the salt water
mobocrats in irons. At this determined order, the gentlemen of
the lash scampered, and for the rest of the voyage conducted
themselves very decorously.

This incident of the voyage, in two days after landing at
Liverpool, brought me at once before the British public, and that
by no act of my own. The gentlemen so promptly snubbed in their
meditated violence, flew to the press to justify their conduct,
and to denounce me as a worthless and insolent Negro. This
course was even less wise than the conduct it was intended to
sustain; for, besides awakening something like a national
interest in me, and securing me an audience, it brought out
counter statements, and threw the blame upon themselves, which
they had sought to fasten upon me and the gallant captain of the

Some notion may be formed of the difference in my feelings and
circumstances, while abroad, from the following extract from one
of a series of letters addressed by me to Mr. Garrison, and
published in the _Liberator_. It was written on the first day of
January, 1846:

MY DEAR FRIEND GARRISON: Up to this time, I have given no direct
expression of the views, feelings, and opinions which I have
formed, respecting the character and condition of the people of
this land. I have refrained thus, purposely. I wish to speak
advisedly, and in order to do this, I have waited till, I trust,
experience has brought my opinions to an intelligent maturity. I
have been thus careful, not because I think what I say will have
much effect in shaping the opinions of the world, but because
whatever of influence I may possess, whether little or much, I
wish it to go in the right direction, and according to truth. I
hardly need say that, in speaking of Ireland, I shall be
influenced by no prejudices in favor of America. I think my
circumstances all forbid that. I have no end to serve, no creed
to uphold, no government to defend; and as to nation, I belong to
none. I have no protection at home, or resting-place abroad.
The land of my birth welcomes me to her shores only as a slave,
and spurns with contempt the idea of treating me differently; so
that I am an outcast from the society of my childhood, and an
outlaw in the <287 LETTER TO GARRISON>land of my birth. "I am a
stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were."
That men should be patriotic, is to me perfectly natural; and as
a philosophical fact, I am able to give it an _intellectual_
recognition. But no further can I go. If ever I had any
patriotism, or any capacity for the feeling, it was whipped out
of me long since, by the lash of the American soul-drivers.

In thinking of America, I sometimes find myself admiring her
bright blue sky, her grand old woods, her fertile fields, her
beautiful rivers, her mighty lakes, and star-crowned mountains.
But my rapture is soon checked, my joy is soon turned to
mourning. When I remember that all is cursed with the infernal
spirit of slaveholding, robbery, and wrong; when I remember that
with the waters of her noblest rivers, the tears of my brethren
are borne to the ocean, disregarded and forgotten, and that her
most fertile fields drink daily of the warm blood of my outraged
sisters; I am filled with unutterable loathing, and led to
reproach myself that anything could fall from my lips in praise
of such a land. America will not allow her children to love her.
She seems bent on compelling those who would be her warmest
friends, to be her worst enemies. May God give her repentance,
before it is too late, is the ardent prayer of my heart. I will
continue to pray, labor, and wait, believing that she cannot
always be insensible to the dictates of justice, or deaf to the
voice of humanity.

My opportunities for learning the character and condition of the
people of this land have been very great. I have traveled [email protected]@
@@om the Hill of Howth to the Giant's Causeway, and from the
Giant's Causway, to Cape Clear. During these travels, I have met
with much in the [email protected]@ and condition of the people to approve,
and much to condemn; much that @@thrilled me with pleasure, and
very much that has filled me with pain. I @@ @@t, in this
letter, attempt to give any description of those scenes which
have given me pain. This I will do hereafter. I have enough,
and more than your subscribers will be disposed to read at one
time, of the bright side of the picture. I can truly say, I have
spent some of the happiest moments of my life since landing in
this country. I seem to have undergone a transformation. I live
a new life. The warm and generous cooperation extended to me by
the friends of my despised race; the prompt and liberal manner
with which the press has rendered me its aid; the glorious
enthusiasm with which thousands have flocked to hear the cruel
wrongs of my down-trodden and long-enslaved fellow-countrymen
portrayed; the deep sympathy for the slave, and the strong
abhorrence of the slaveholder, everywhere evinced; the cordiality
with which members and ministers of various religious bodies, and
of various shades of religious opinion, have embraced me, and
lent me their aid; the kind of hospitality constantly proffered
to me by persons of the highest rank in society; the spirit of
freedom that seems to animate all with whom I come in contact,
and the entire absence of everything that looked like prejudice
against me, on account of the color of my skin--contrasted so
strongly with my long and bitter experience in the United States,
that I look with wonder and amazement on the transition. In the
southern part of the United States, I was a slave, thought of
<288>and spoken of as property; in the language of the LAW,
"_held, taken, reputed, and adjudged to be a chattel in the hands
of my owners and possessors, and their executors, administrators,
and assigns, to all intents, constructions, and purposes
whatsoever_." (Brev. Digest, 224). In the northern states, a
fugitive slave, liable to be hunted at any moment, like a felon,
and to be hurled into the terrible jaws of slavery--doomed by an
inveterate prejudice against color to insult and outrage on every
hand (Massachusetts out of the question)--denied the privileges
and courtesies common to others in the use of the most humble
means of conveyance--shut out from the cabins on steamboats--
refused admission to respectable hotels--caricatured, scorned,
scoffed, mocked, and maltreated with impunity by any one (no
matter how black his heart), so he has a white skin. But now
behold the change! Eleven days and a half gone, and I have
crossed three thousand miles of the perilous deep. Instead of a
democratic government, I am under a monarchical government.
Instead of the bright, blue sky of America, I am covered with the
soft, grey fog of the Emerald Isle. I breathe, and lo! the
chattel becomes a man. I gaze around in vain for one who will
question my equal humanity, claim me as his slave, or offer me an
insult. I employ a cab--I am seated beside white people--I reach
the hotel--I enter the same door--I am shown into the same
parlor--I dine at the same table and no one is offended. No
delicate nose grows deformed in my presence. I find no
difficulty here in obtaining admission into any place of worship,
instruction, or amusement, on equal terms with people as white as
any I ever saw in the United States. I meet nothing to remind me
of my complexion. I find myself regarded and treated at every
turn with the kindness and deference paid to white people. When
I go to church, I am met by no upturned nose and scornful lip to
tell me, "_We don't allow niggers in here_!"

I remember, about two years ago, there was in Boston, near the
south-west corner of Boston Common, a menagerie. I had long
desired to see such a collection as I understood was being
exhibited there. Never having had an opportunity while a slave,
I resolved to seize this, my first, since my escape. I went, and
as I approached the entrance to gain admission, I was met and
told by the door-keeper, in a harsh and contemptuous tone, "_We
don't allow niggers in here_." I also remember attending a
revival meeting in the Rev. Henry Jackson's meeting-house, at New
Bedford, and going up the broad aisle to find a seat, I was met
by a good deacon, who told me, in a pious tone, "_We don't allow
niggers in here_!" Soon after my arrival in New Bedford, from
the south, I had a strong desire to attend the Lyceum, but was
told, "_They don't allow niggers in here_!" While passing from
New York to Boston, on the steamer Massachusetts, on the night of
the 9th of December, 1843, when chilled almost through with the
cold, I went into the cabin to get a little warm. I was soon
touched upon the shoulder, and told, "_We don't allow niggers in
here_!" On arriving in Boston, from an anti-slavery tour, hungry
and tired, I went into an eating-house, near my friend, Mr.
Campbell's to get some refreshments. I was met by a lad in a
white apron, "_We don't allow niggers in here_!" <289 TIME AND
LABORS ABROAD>A week or two before leaving the United States, I
had a meeting appointed at Weymouth, the home of that glorious
band of true abolitionists, the Weston family, and others. On
attempting to take a seat in the omnibus to that place, I was
told by the driver (and I never shall forget his fiendish hate).
"_I don't allow niggers in here_!" Thank heaven for the respite
I now enjoy! I had been in Dublin but a few days, when a
gentleman of great respectability kindly offered to conduct me
through all the public buildings of that beautiful city; and a
little afterward, I found myself dining with the lord mayor of
Dublin. What a pity there was not some American democratic
Christian at the door of his splendid mansion, to bark out at my
approach, "_They don't allow niggers in here_!" The truth is,
the people here know nothing of the republican Negro hate
prevalent in our glorious land. They measure and esteem men
according to their moral and intellectual worth, and not
according to the color of their skin. Whatever may be said of
the aristocracies here, there is none based on the color of a
man's skin. This species of aristocracy belongs preeminently to
"the land of the free, and the home of the brave." I have never
found it abroad, in any but Americans. It sticks to them
wherever they go. They find it almost as hard to get rid of, as
to get rid of their skins.

The second day after my arrival at Liverpool, in company with my
friend, Buffum, and several other friends, I went to Eaton Hall,
the residence of the Marquis of Westminster, one of the most
splendid buildings in England. On approaching the door, I found
several of our American passengers, who came out with us in the
"Cambria," waiting for admission, as but one party was allowed in
the house at a time. We all had to wait till the company within
came out. And of all the faces, expressive of chagrin, those of
the Americans were preeminent. They looked as sour as vinegar,
and as bitter as gall, when they found I was to be admitted on
equal terms with themselves. When the door was opened, I walked
in, on an equal footing with my white fellow-citizens, and from
all I could see, I had as much attention paid me by the servants
that showed us through the house, as any with a paler skin. As I
walked through the building, the statuary did not fall down, the
pictures did not leap from their places, the doors did not refuse
to open, and the servants did not say, "_We don't allow niggers
in here_!"

A happy new-year to you, and all the friends of freedom.

My time and labors, while abroad were divided between England,
Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Upon this experience alone, I
might write a book twice the size of this, _My Bondage and My
Freedom_. I visited and lectured in nearly all the large towns
and cities in the United Kingdom, and enjoyed many favorable
opportunities for observation and information. But books on
England are abundant, and the public may, therefore, dismiss any
fear that I am meditating another infliction in that line;
<290>though, in truth, I should like much to write a book on
those countries, if for nothing else, to make grateful mention of
the many dear friends, whose benevolent actions toward me are
ineffaceably stamped upon my memory, and warmly treasured in my
heart. To these friends I owe my freedom in the United States.
On their own motion, without any solicitation from me (Mrs. Henry
Richardson, a clever lady, remarkable for her devotion to every
good work, taking the lead), they raised a fund sufficient to
purchase my freedom, and actually paid it over, and placed the
papers[8] of my manumission in my hands, before

[8] The following is a copy of these curious papers, both of my
transfer from Thomas to Hugh Auld, and from Hugh to myself:

"Know all men by these Presents, That I, Thomas Auld, of Talbot
county, and state of Maryland, for and in consideration of the
sum of one hundred dollars, current money, to me paid by Hugh
Auld, of the city of Baltimore, in the said state, at and before
the sealing and delivery of these presents, the receipt whereof,
I, the said Thomas Auld, do hereby acknowledge, have granted,
bargained, and sold, and by these presents do grant, bargain, and
sell unto the said Hugh Auld, his executors, administrators, and
assigns, ONE NEGRO MAN, by the name of FREDERICK BAILY, or
DOUGLASS, as he callls{sic} himself--he is now about twenty-eight
years of age--to have and to hold the said negro man for life.
And I, the said Thomas Auld, for myself my heirs, executors, and
administrators, all and singular, the said FREDERICK BAILY
_alias_ DOUGLASS, unto the said Hugh Auld, his executors,
administrators, and assigns against me, the said Thomas Auld, my
executors, and administrators, and against ali and every other
person or persons whatsoever, shall and will warrant and forever
defend by these presents. In witness whereof, I set my hand and
seal, this thirteenth day of November, eighteen hundred and
forty-six. THOMAS

"Signed, sealed, and delivered in presence of Wrightson Jones.

The authenticity of this bill of sale is attested by N.
Harrington, a justice of the peace of the state of Maryland, and
for the county of Talbot, dated same day as above.

"To all whom it may concern: Be it known, that I, Hugh Auld, of
the city of Baltimore, in Baltimore county, in the state of
Maryland, for divers good causes and considerations, me thereunto
moving, have released from slavery, liberated, manumitted, and
set free, and by these presents do hereby release from slavery,
liberate, manumit, and set free, MY NEGRO MAN, named FREDERICK
BAILY, otherwise called DOUGLASS, being of the age of twenty-
eight years, or thereabouts, and able to work and gain a
sufficient livelihood and maintenance; and him the said negro man
named FREDERICK BAILY, otherwise called FREDERICK DOUGLASS, I do
declare to be henceforth free, manumitted, and discharged from
all manner of servitude to me, my executors, and administrators

"In witness whereof, I, the said Hugh Auld, have hereunto set my
hand and seal the fifth of December, in the year one thousand
eight hundred and forty-six.
Hugh Auld

"Sealed and delivered in presence of T. Hanson Belt.

<291 FREEDOM PURCHASED>they would tolerate the idea of my
returning to this, my native country. To this commercial
transaction I owe my exemption from the democratic operation of
the Fugitive Slave Bill of 1850. But for this, I might at any
time become a victim of this most cruel and scandalous enactment,
and be doomed to end my life, as I began it, a slave. The sum
paid for my freedom was one hundred and fifty pounds sterling.

Some of my uncompromising anti-slavery friends in this country
failed to see the wisdom of this arrangement, and were not
pleased that I consented to it, even by my silence. They thought
it a violation of anti-slavery principles--conceding a right of
property in man--and a wasteful expenditure of money. On the
other hand, viewing it simply in the light of a ransom, or as
money extorted by a robber, and my liberty of more value than one
hundred and fifty pounds sterling, I could not see either a
violation of the laws of morality, or those of economy, in the

It is true, I was not in the possession of my claimants, and
could have easily remained in England, for the same friends who
had so generously purchased my freedom, would have assisted me in
establishing myself in that country. To this, however, I could
not consent. I felt that I had a duty to perform--and that was,
to labor and suffer with the oppressed in my native land.
Considering, therefore, all the circumstances--the fugitive slave
bill included--I think the very best thing was done in letting
Master Hugh have the hundred and fifty pounds sterling, and
leaving me free to return to my appropriate field of labor. Had
I been a private person, having no other relations or duties than
those of a personal and family nature, I should never have
consented to the payment of so large a sum for the privilege of
living securely under our glorious republican form of government.
I could have remained in England, or have gone to some other
country; and perhaps I could even have lived unobserved in this.
But to this I could not consent. I had already become
some<292>what notorious, and withal quite as unpopular as
notorious; and I was, therefore, much exposed to arrest and

The main object to which my labors in Great Britain were
directed, was the concentration of the moral and religious
sentiment of its people against American slavery. England is
often charged with having established slavery in the United
States, and if there were no other justification than this, for
appealing to her people to lend their moral aid for the abolition
of slavery, I should be justified. My speeches in Great Britain
were wholly extemporaneous, and I may not always have been so
guarded in my expressions, as I otherwise should have been. I
was ten years younger then than now, and only seven years from
slavery. I cannot give the reader a better idea of the nature of
my discourses, than by republishing one of them, delivered in
Finsbury chapel, London, to an audience of about two thousand
persons, and which was published in the _London Universe_, at the

Those in the United States who may regard this speech as being
harsh in its spirit and unjust in its statements, because
delivered before an audience supposed to be anti-republican in
their principles and feelings, may view the matter differently,
when they learn that the case supposed did not exist. It so
happened that the great mass of the people in England who
attended and patronized my anti-slavery meetings, were, in truth,
about as good republicans as the mass of Americans, and with this
decided advantage over the latter--they are lovers of
republicanism for all men, for black men as well as for white
men. They are the people who sympathize with Louis Kossuth and
Mazzini, and with the oppressed and enslaved, of every color and
nation, the world over. They constitute the democratic element
in British politics, and are as much opposed to the union of
church and state as we, in America, are to such an union. At the
meeting where this speech was delivered, Joseph Sturge--a world-
wide philan

[9] See Appendix to this volume, page 317.

<293 ENGLISH REPUBLICANS>thropist, and a member of the society of
Friends--presided, and addressed the meeting. George William
Alexander, another Friend, who has spent more than an
Ameriacn{sic} fortune in promoting the anti-slavery cause in
different sections of the world, was on the platform; and also
Dr. Campbell (now of the _British Banner_) who combines all the
humane tenderness of Melanchthon, with the directness and
boldness of Luther. He is in the very front ranks of non-
conformists, and looks with no unfriendly eye upon America.
George Thompson, too, was there; and America will yet own that he
did a true man's work in relighting the rapidly dying-out fire of
true republicanism in the American heart, and be ashamed of the
treatment he met at her hands. Coming generations in this
country will applaud the spirit of this much abused republican
friend of freedom. There were others of note seated on the
platform, who would gladly ingraft upon English institutions all
that is purely republican in the institutions of America.
Nothing, therefore, must be set down against this speech on the
score that it was delivered in the presence of those who cannot
appreciate the many excellent things belonging to our system of
government, and with a view to stir up prejudice against
republican institutions.

Again, let it also be remembered--for it is the simple truth--
that neither in this speech, nor in any other which I delivered
in England, did I ever allow myself to address Englishmen as
against Americans. I took my stand on the high ground of human
brotherhood, and spoke to Englishmen as men, in behalf of men.
Slavery is a crime, not against Englishmen, but against God, and
all the members of the human family; and it belongs to the whole
human family to seek its suppression. In a letter to Mr.
Greeley, of the New York Tribune, written while abroad, I said:

I am, nevertheless aware that the wisdom of exposing the sins of
one nation in the ear of another, has been seriously questioned
by good and clear-sighted people, both on this and on your side
of the Atlantic. And the <294>thought is not without weight on
my own mind. I am satisfied that there are many evils which can
be best removed by confining our efforts to the immediate
locality where such evils exist. This, however, is by no means
the case with the system of slavery. It is such a giant sin--
such a monstrous aggregation of iniquity--so hardening to the
human heart--so destructive to the moral sense, and so well
calculated to beget a character, in every one around it,
favorable to its own continuance,--that I feel not only at
liberty, but abundantly justified, in appealing to the whole
world to aid in its removal.

But, even if I had--as has been often charged--labored to bring
American institutions generally into disrepute, and had not
confined my labors strictly within the limits of humanity and
morality, I should not have been without illustrious examples to
support me. Driven into semi-exile by civil and barbarous laws,
and by a system which cannot be thought of without a shudder, I
was fully justified in turning, if possible, the tide of the
moral universe against the heaven-daring outrage.

Four circumstances greatly assisted me in getting the question of
American slavery before the British public. First, the mob on
board the "Cambria," already referred to, which was a sort of
national announcement of my arrival in England. Secondly, the
highly reprehensible course pursued by the Free Church of
Scotland, in soliciting, receiving, and retaining money in its
sustentation fund for supporting the gospel in Scotland, which
was evidently the ill-gotten gain of slaveholders and slave-
traders. Third, the great Evangelical Alliance--or rather the
attempt to form such an alliance, which should include
slaveholders of a certain description--added immensely to the
interest felt in the slavery question. About the same time,
there was the World's Temperance Convention, where I had the
misfortune to come in collision with sundry American doctors of
divinity--Dr. Cox among the number--with whom I had a small

It has happened to me--as it has happened to most other men
engaged in a good cause--often to be more indebted to my enemies
than to my own skill or to the assistance of my friends, for
whatever success has attended my labors. Great surprise was <295
FREE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND>expressed by American newspapers, north
and south, during my stay in Great Britain, that a person so
illiterate and insignificant as myself could awaken an interest
so marked in England. These papers were not the only parties
surprised. I was myself not far behind them in surprise. But
the very contempt and scorn, the systematic and extravagant
disparagement of which I was the object, served, perhaps, to
magnify my few merits, and to render me of some account, whether
deserving or not. A man is sometimes made great, by the
greatness of the abuse a portion of mankind may think proper to
heap upon him. Whether I was of as much consequence as the
English papers made me out to be, or not, it was easily seen, in
England, that I could not be the ignorant and worthless creature,
some of the American papers would have them believe I was. Men,
in their senses, do not take bowie-knives to kill mosquitoes, nor
pistols to shoot flies; and the American passengers who thought
proper to get up a mob to silence me, on board the "Cambria,"
took the most effective method of telling the British public that
I had something to say.

But to the second circumstance, namely, the position of the Free
Church of Scotland, with the great Doctors Chalmers, Cunningham,
and Candlish at its head. That church, with its leaders, put it
out of the power of the Scotch people to ask the old question,
which we in the north have often most wickedly asked--"_What have
we to do with slavery_?" That church had taken the price of
blood into its treasury, with which to build _free_ churches, and
to pay _free_ church ministers for preaching the gospel; and,
worse still, when honest John Murray, of Bowlien Bay--now gone to
his reward in heaven--with William Smeal, Andrew Paton, Frederick
Card, and other sterling anti-slavery men in Glasgow, denounced
the transaction as disgraceful and shocking to the religious
sentiment of Scotland, this church, through its leading divines,
instead of repenting and seeking to mend the mistake into which
it had fallen, made it a flagrant sin, by undertaking to defend,
in the name of God and the bible, the principle not only <296>of
taking the money of slave-dealers to build churches, but of
holding fellowship with the holders and traffickers in human
flesh. This, the reader will see, brought up the whole question
of slavery, and opened the way to its full discussion, without
any agency of mine. I have never seen a people more deeply moved
than were the people of Scotland, on this very question. Public
meeting succeeded public meeting. Speech after speech, pamphlet
after pamphlet, editorial after editorial, sermon after sermon,
soon lashed the conscientious Scotch people into a perfect
_furore_. "SEND BACK THE MONEY!" was indignantly cried out, from
Greenock to Edinburgh, and from Edinburgh to Aberdeen. George
Thompson, of London, Henry C. Wright, of the United States, James
N. Buffum, of Lynn, Massachusetts, and myself were on the anti-
slavery side; and Doctors Chalmers, Cunningham, and Candlish on
the other. In a conflict where the latter could have had even
the show of right, the truth, in our hands as against them, must
have been driven to the wall; and while I believe we were able to
carry the conscience of the country against the action of the
Free Church, the battle, it must be confessed, was a hard-fought
one. Abler defenders of the doctrine of fellowshiping
slaveholders as christians, have not been met with. In defending
this doctrine, it was necessary to deny that slavery is a sin.
If driven from this position, they were compelled to deny that
slaveholders were responsible for the sin; and if driven from
both these positions, they must deny that it is a sin in such a
sense, and that slaveholders are sinners in such a sense, as to
make it wrong, in the circumstances in which they were placed, to
recognize them as Christians. Dr. Cunningham was the most
powerful debater on the slavery side of the question; Mr.
Thompson was the ablest on the anti-slavery side. A scene
occurred between these two men, a parallel to which I think I
never witnessed before, and I know I never have since. The scene
was caused by a single exclamation on the part of Mr. Thompson.

The general assembly of the Free Church was in progress at <297
THE DEBATE>Cannon Mills, Edinburgh. The building would hold
about twenty-five hundred persons; and on this occasion it was
densely packed, notice having been given that Doctors Cunningham
and Candlish would speak, that day, in defense of the relations
of the Free Church of Scotland to slavery in America. Messrs.
Thompson, Buffum, myself, and a few anti-slavery friends,
attended, but sat at such a distance, and in such a position,
that, perhaps we were not observed from the platform. The
excitement was intense, having been greatly increased by a series
of meetings held by Messrs. Thompson, Wright, Buffum, and myself,
in the most splendid hall in that most beautiful city, just
previous to the meetings of the general assembly. "SEND BACK THE
MONEY!" stared at us from every street corner; "SEND BACK THE
MONEY!" in large capitals, adorned the broad flags of the
pavement; "SEND BACK THE MONEY!" was the chorus of the popular
street songs; "SEND BACK THE MONEY!" was the heading of leading
editorials in the daily newspapers. This day, at Cannon Mills,
the great doctors of the church were to give an answer to this
loud and stern demand. Men of all parties and all sects were
most eager to hear. Something great was expected. The occasion
was great, the men great, and great speeches were expected from

In addition to the outside pressure upon Doctors Cunningham and
Candlish, there was wavering in their own ranks. The conscience
of the church itself was not at ease. A dissatisfaction with the
position of the church touching slavery, was sensibly manifest
among the members, and something must be done to counteract this
untoward influence. The great Dr. Chalmers was in feeble health,
at the time. His most potent eloquence could not now be summoned
to Cannon Mills, as formerly. He whose voice was able to rend
asunder and dash down the granite walls of the established church
of Scotland, and to lead a host in solemn procession from it, as
from a doomed city, was now old and enfeebled. Besides, he had
said his word on this very question; and his word had not
silenced the clamor without, nor stilled <298>the anxious
heavings within. The occasion was momentous, and felt to be so.
The church was in a perilous condition. A change of some sort
must take place in her condition, or she must go to pieces. To
stand where she did, was impossible. The whole weight of the
matter fell on Cunningham and Candlish. No shoulders in the
church were broader than theirs; and I must say, badly as I
detest the principles laid down and defended by them, I was
compelled to acknowledge the vast mental endowments of the men.
Cunningham rose; and his rising was the signal for almost
tumultous applause. You will say this was scarcely in keeping
with the solemnity of the occasion, but to me it served to
increase its grandeur and gravity. The applause, though
tumultuous, was not joyous. It seemed to me, as it thundered up
from the vast audience, like the fall of an immense shaft, flung
from shoulders already galled by its crushing weight. It was
like saying, "Doctor, we have borne this burden long enough, and
willingly fling it upon you. Since it was you who brought it
upon us, take it now, and do what you will with it, for we are
too weary to bear it.{no close "}

Doctor Cunningham proceeded with his speech, abounding in logic,
learning, and eloquence, and apparently bearing down all
opposition; but at the moment--the fatal moment--when he was just
bringing all his arguments to a point, and that point being, that
neither Jesus Christ nor his holy apostles regarded slaveholding
as a sin, George Thompson, in a clear, sonorous, but rebuking
voice, broke the deep stillness of the audience, exclaiming,
HEAR! HEAR! HEAR! The effect of this simple and common
exclamation is almost incredible. It was as if a granite wall
had been suddenly flung up against the advancing current of a
mighty river. For a moment, speaker and audience were brought to
a dead silence. Both the doctor and his hearers seemed appalled
by the audacity, as well as the fitness of the rebuke. At length
a shout went up to the cry of "_Put him out_!" Happily, no one
attempted to execute this cowardly order, and the doctor
proceeded with his discourse. Not, however, as before, did the
<299 COLLISION WITH DR. COX>learned doctor proceed. The
exclamation of Thompson must have reechoed itself a thousand
times in his memory, during the remainder of his speech, for the
doctor never recovered from the blow.

The deed was done, however; the pillars of the church--_the
proud, Free Church of Scotland_--were committed and the humility
of repentance was absent. The Free Church held on to the blood-
stained money, and continued to justify itself in its position--
and of course to apologize for slavery--and does so till this
day. She lost a glorious opportunity for giving her voice, her
vote, and her example to the cause of humanity; and to-day she is
staggering under the curse of the enslaved, whose blood is in her
skirts. The people of Scotland are, to this day, deeply grieved
at the course pursued by the Free Church, and would hail, as a
relief from a deep and blighting shame, the "sending back the
money" to the slaveholders from whom it was gathered.

One good result followed the conduct of the Free Church; it
furnished an occasion for making the people of Scotland
thoroughly acquainted with the character of slavery, and for
arraying against the system the moral and religious sentiment of
that country. Therefore, while we did not succeed in
accomplishing the specific object of our mission, namely--procure
the sending back of the money--we were amply justified by the
good which really did result from our labors.

Next comes the Evangelical Alliance. This was an attempt to form
a union of all evangelical Christians throughout the world.
Sixty or seventy American divines attended, and some of them went
there merely to weave a world-wide garment with which to clothe
evangelical slaveholders. Foremost among these divines, was the
Rev. Samuel Hanson Cox, moderator of the New School Presbyterian
General Assembly. He and his friends spared no pains to secure a
platform broad enough to hold American slaveholders, and in this
partly succeeded. But the question of slavery is too large a
question to be finally disposed of, even by the <300>Evangelical
Alliance. We appealed from the judgment of the Alliance, to the
judgment of the people of Great Britain, and with the happiest
effect. This controversy with the Alliance might be made the
subject of extended remark, but I must forbear, except to say,
that this effort to shield the Christian character of
slaveholders greatly served to open a way to the British ear for
anti-slavery discussion, and that it was well improved.

The fourth and last circumstance that assisted me in getting
before the British public, was an attempt on the part of certain
doctors of divinity to silence me on the platform of the World's
Temperance Convention. Here I was brought into point blank
collison with Rev. Dr. Cox, who made me the subject not only of
bitter remark in the convention, but also of a long denunciatory
letter published in the New York Evangelist and other American
papers. I replied to the doctor as well as I could, and was
successful in getting a respectful hearing before the British
public, who are by nature and practice ardent lovers of fair
play, especially in a conflict between the weak and the strong.

Thus did circumstances favor me, and favor the cause of which I
strove to be the advocate. After such distinguished notice, the
public in both countries was compelled to attach some importance
to my labors. By the very ill usage I received at the hands of
Dr. Cox and his party, by the mob on board the "Cambria," by the
attacks made upon me in the American newspapers, and by the
aspersions cast upon me through the organs of the Free Church of
Scotland, I became one of that class of men, who, for the moment,
at least, "have greatness forced upon them." People became the
more anxious to hear for themselves, and to judge for themselves,
of the truth which I had to unfold. While, therefore, it is by
no means easy for a stranger to get fairly before the British
public, it was my lot to accomplish it in the easiest manner

Having continued in Great Britain and Ireland nearly two years,
and being about to return to America--not as I left it, a <301
leading friends of the cause of emancipation in that country
intimated their intention to make me a testimonial, not only on
grounds of personal regard to myself, but also to the cause to
which they were so ardently devoted. How far any such thing
could have succeeded, I do not know; but many reasons led me to
prefer that my friends should simply give me the means of
obtaining a printing press and printing materials, to enable me
to start a paper, devoted to the interests of my enslaved and
oppressed people. I told them that perhaps the greatest
hinderance to the adoption of abolition principles by the people
of the United States, was the low estimate, everywhere in that
country, placed upon the Negro, as a man; that because of his
assumed natural inferiority, people reconciled themselves to his
enslavement and oppression, as things inevitable, if not
desirable. The grand thing to be done, therefore, was to change
the estimation in which the colored people of the United States
were held; to remove the prejudice which depreciated and
depressed them; to prove them worthy of a higher consideration;
to disprove their alleged inferiority, and demonstrate their
capacity for a more exalted civilization than slavery and
prejudice had assigned to them. I further stated, that, in my
judgment, a tolerably well conducted press, in the hands of
persons of the despised race, by calling out the mental energies
of the race itself; by making them acquainted with their own
latent powers; by enkindling among them the hope that for them
there is a future; by developing their moral power; by combining
and reflecting their talents--would prove a most powerful means
of removing prejudice, and of awakening an interest in them. I
further informed them--and at that time the statement was true--
that there was not, in the United States, a single newspaper
regularly published by the colored people; that many attempts had
been made to establish such papers; but that, up to that time,
they had all failed. These views I laid before my friends. The
result was, nearly two thousand five hundred dollars were
speed<302>ily raised toward starting my paper. For this prompt
and generous assistance, rendered upon my bare suggestion,
without any personal efforts on my part, I shall never cease to
feel deeply grateful; and the thought of fulfilling the noble
expectations of the dear friends who gave me this evidence of
their confidence, will never cease to be a motive for persevering

Proposing to leave England, and turning my face toward America,
in the spring of 1847, I was met, on the threshold, with
something which painfully reminded me of the kind of life which
awaited me in my native land. For the first time in the many
months spent abroad, I was met with proscription on account of my
color. A few weeks before departing from England, while in
London, I was careful to purchase a ticket, and secure a berth
for returning home, in the "Cambria"--the steamer in which I left
the United States--paying therefor the round sum of forty pounds
and nineteen shillings sterling. This was first cabin fare. But
on going aboard the Cambria, I found that the Liverpool agent had
ordered my berth to be given to another, and had forbidden my
entering the saloon! This contemptible conduct met with stern
rebuke from the British press. For, upon the point of leaving
England, I took occasion to expose the disgusting tyranny, in the
columns of the London _Times_. That journal, and other leading
journals throughout the United Kingdom, held up the outrage to
unmitigated condemnation. So good an opportunity for calling out
a full expression of British sentiment on the subject, had not
before occurred, and it was most fully embraced. The result was,
that Mr. Cunard came out in a letter to the public journals,
assuring them of his regret at the outrage, and promising that
the like should never occur again on board his steamers; and the
like, we believe, has never since occurred on board the
steamships of the Cunard line.

It is not very pleasant to be made the subject of such insults;
but if all such necessarily resulted as this one did, I should be
very happy to bear, patiently, many more than I have borne, of
<303 THE STING OF INSULT>the same sort. Albeit, the lash of
proscription, to a man accustomed to equal social position, even
for a time, as I was, has a sting for the soul hardly less severe
than that which bites the flesh and draws the blood from the back
of the plantation slave. It was rather hard, after having
enjoyed nearly two years of equal social privileges in England,
often dining with gentlemen of great literary, social, political,
and religious eminence never, during the whole time, having met
with a single word, look, or gesture, which gave me the slightest
reason to think my color was an offense to anybody--now to be
cooped up in the stern of the "Cambria," and denied the right to
enter the saloon, lest my dark presence should be deemed an
offense to some of my democratic fellow-passengers. The reader
will easily imagine what must have been my feelings.

Frederick Douglass

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