Book Review Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight

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Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight published by Simon & Schuster 913 pages (2018) $37.50 Hardcover $14.99 Kindle
Note: I read the Kindle Edition
David Blight has written a wonderful biography of Frederick Douglass that is likely to be the standard against which other work on the great human rights advocate is judged for at least a generation. The first new full biography of Douglass since William McFeely's 1991 book, this is a massive work of prodigious research that is coupled with straightforward writing. The book covers all of the years of Douglass's life and all aspects of his long career. It also offers an unvarnished account of the Great Man's private life without descending into the salacious.

I have read one of Douglass's autobiographies and McFeely's biography. I have also visited some sites associated with Douglass's life in Maryland and in New England and New York. While I am hardly a Douglass devotee, I have more familiarity with his life than most readers. Still, I was surprised by some of what Blight brings to light, and persuaded by many of Blights's conclusions about Douglass's life.

David Blight is a Yale professor and this book accords with scholarly standards, but it avoids the jargon and exclusivity of some academic history. This is a book for all intelligent readers interested in the Civil War and Reconstruction, African American History, and Abolition Studies. It is also perfect for those of us who like to see how people capable of great deeds on the national stage dealt with the everyday domestic trials that we all encounter.

Because of its length this review will be posted in sections.
 
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Part 2:

This is a broad and comprehensive biography of one of the most well-known Americans of the 19th Century. While his contemporaries Grant and Lee led men in battle and Lincoln issued executive orders freeing millions of people, Douglass's tools were seemingly much meeker. Blight writes:

Douglass was a man of words; spoken and written language was the only major weapon of protest, persuasion, or power that he ever possessed. Throughout I try to demonstrate the origins and growth of this man’s amazing facility to find the words to explain America’s racial condition as well as the human condition. In one way, this book is the biography of a voice.

Blight pays close attention to Douglass's words and to the impact they had on the American people.
 
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Part 3:

Blight opens his book at the 1876 unveiling of the Freedmen's Monument in Washington.

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Here Douglass would address, according to Blight, the most powerful audience an African American spoke before until Obama was sworn in as president. With President Grant, Supreme Court Justices, Senators and Congressmen sitting in front of him, Douglass presented a Lincoln who was the product of a racially divided society. Blight writes that Douglas told his audience:

“It must be admitted, truth compels me to admit, even here in the presence of the monument we have erected to his memory, Abraham Lincoln was not . . . either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man.” Douglass must have caused some squirming in the chairs as he injected race so forthrightly into his rhetorical tribute. Grant might have inwardly flinched. It was as though Douglass had decided to give voice to the kneeling slave on the statue, who would now say thank you as well as speak some bitter truths about a real history, and not merely allow the occasion to be one of proud, national self-congratulation. It was as though Douglass was saying—you gave me this unique platform today, and I will therefore teach these lessons about the jagged and tragic paths by which black people achieved freedom in the agony of war. “He [Lincoln] was preeminently the white man’s president,” Douglass continued in his forceful baritone, “entirely devoted to the welfare of the white man. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of the country.” Douglass employed a stunning level of directness for such a ceremonial occasion. He did not merely turn his moment in the national sun into a reminiscence about a good war and glorious outcomes. Lincoln’s growth to greatness and to the role of Emancipator, he insisted, must first be seen through the disappointments of his first year in office. Douglass would not consider the triumphal memory of 1865 without first pulling his audience through the pain of 1861. (Kindle Locations 304-308).
 

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Part 4:

On this ceremonial occasion Douglass reminded his audience that in 1862 Lincoln proposed to Black ministers that freed slaves should move to another county and in 1863 he refused to retaliate against captured Confederates when Black soldiers were murdered. He famously told whites in his audience that “My white fellow-citizens . . . you are the children of Abraham Lincoln. We are at best only his stepchildren; children by adoption, children by forces of circumstances and necessity.” Yet, Lincoln, he said, was worthy of honor among the freedpeople for liberating them from an oppression infinitely worse than the wrongs that had led the founders of the United States rise in revolt against the British.

Blight then moves from Douglass at the height of his powers to his humble origins as a baby born into slavery on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Douglass may have been the product of the sexual abuse of his mother by a white owner or overseer. Hired out by her owner to a number of employers, she rarely was even allowed to see her children.
“My poor mother, like many other slave women, had many children, but NO FAMILY!” Douglass wrote later. Douglass only saw her on a handful of occasions.

Douglass would often recall the last time he saw his mother. After a transgression as a little boy, he was denied food by the woman placed in charge of him. His mother came in the night to bring him a little heart-shaped cake. By the time he awakened, she had already walked miles the the farm she had been hired out to work. When he heard later that she was dying, he asked to visit his mother but was refused permission. Blight writes of Douglass's later retelling of this story:

As a world-famous abolitionist in 1855, Douglass knew well how this story would play on the emotions of his readers; but his words must also be read and interpreted as a child’s screams transported by memory into the anguished heart of a lifelong orphan. “The heartless and ghastly form of slavery rises between mother and child, even at the bed of death,” he offered to his sentimental readers. Then, he simply spoke for himself and millions of other former slaves, dead and living: “It has been a life-long, standing grief to me, that I knew so little of my mother; and that I was so early separated from her. The counsels of her love must have been beneficial to me. The side view of her face is imaged on my memory, and I take few steps in life, without feeling her presence; but the image is mute, and I have no striking words of her’s treasured up.” Douglass could see her only from a blurry side view, her voice muted...

 

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Part 5:

Douglass did not know who his father was. He wrote in 1845; “My father was a white man . . . admitted to be such by all I ever heard speak of my parentage.” Growing up, he recalled, it was “whispered that my master was my father." Blight writes that the question of who his father was concerned Douglass at many points in his life. While Douglass wrote that under slavery white men fathered children with the Black women they controlled, they were not fathers, still he often inquired of people from the area near where he lived if they knew who his father was.

His owner, Aaron Anthony, was 51 when Frederick was born. He had two adult sons at the time. Any of the three, or an overseer, could have been the child's father. Douglass grew up watching Aaron, the man who might be his father, abuse and torture the black people he owned. He saw Aaron strip Douglass's 15 year old aunt to the waist and beat her mercilessly because she had fallen in love with another slave. The lecherous Aaron would brook no black rivals. Aaron Anthony was the very image of the slave owner as sexual predator.
 

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Part 6:

Not all was horror on the Eastern Shore. Lucretia Auld, the daughter of Aaron Anthony, was the first white person who showed him kindness, Douglass would later recall. Even late in his life he would speak of the decency of this daughter of a slaveowner.

Still little more than a child, Douglass was sent to serve as a slave to Hugh and Sophia Auld in Baltimore. Blight provides a stunning description of the contrast between the hide-bound slave society of the Eastern Shore and the rollicking modernity of Baltimore. The great Border city had slaves, but was not really a slave city. Free Blacks and throngs of Irish and German immigrants greatly outnumbered enslaved African Americans.

His new masters were at first surprisingly kind to Frederick. They would later become abusive, but they provided him with both literacy and shipbuilding skills. Both would help him survive after he escaped to the North. Literacy would empower his efforts to free all men and women in America.

Here is how Blight writes about Douglass's first months with the Aulds:

To his astonishment and joy, Sophia Auld—Hugh’s wife—displayed “the kindliest emotions” in her face, and her tender demeanor toward the boy put him in a world he had never known from white people. And he hit it off immediately with “Little Tommy,” of whom “his Freddy,” as “Miss Sophia” put it, was to “take care.” Surrounded by all this dreamlike affection, Frederick remembered his emotions: “I had already fallen in love with the dear boy; and with these little ceremonies I was initiated into my new home, and entered upon my peculiar duties.”6 Compared to all his previous experience it was a home and would remain so for several years; but it would also be a place for learning stern lessons for life, as well as to find and savor the one possession that might save his life.

For nearly his first two years with the Aulds, Sophia treated him “more akin to a mother than a slaveholding mistress.” Indeed, as Douglass pointed out, Sophia Auld had never been a slaveholder before his arrival. She allowed him to feel like a “half-brother” to Tommy. She was pious, attended church regularly, and exuded kindness toward the black boy who was now turning ten or eleven years old. She was Douglass’s humane “law-giver,” he said, and such sweetness made him “more sensitive to good and ill treatment.” Living on carpets, sleeping in a good straw bed, eating good bread, and wearing clean clothes did not hurt either. But the great gift she gave him was literacy. In 1845 Douglass recollected simply that Sophia had of her own accord taught him his ABCs as well as his first lessons in spelling. But by 1855 he remembered it a little differently. By then it was part of his “plan,” and after repeatedly hearing her read aloud from the Bible, he frankly asked her to teach him to read. Either way, Sophia was proud of her pupil, and Frederick was an extraordinarily eager learner.
(Kindle Locations 909-912)

Sophia's instruction in literacy ended when her husband forbade further lessons. He told Sophia that it was illegal to teach a slave to read and that once Frederick was literate, there would be no keeping him. Hugh said that the only way to make the boy into a good slave was by depriving him of an education. Douglass would later say that Hugh's chastisement of Sophia was the “first decidedly antislavery lecture to which it had been my lot to listen.”
 

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Part 7:

Douglass would later say that Sophia Auld “lacked the depravity indispensable to shutting” her slave away from learning, but that her husband's pressure ended Sophia's kindness. She went from lamb-like kindness to tiger-like fierceness in her relations with Frederick. David Blight says that when Douglass's opportunity for learning was cut off by Sophia, he turned to another source of teachers:

Frederick made friends with several white boys who lived in the same neighborhood. [He] developed a genuine bond with these struggling and hungry immigrant kids. Frederick carried his Webster’s spelling book, and at every chance he would corner the white boys and, while “seated on a curbstone or a cellar door,” solicit from them spelling lessons in return for his “tuition fee”—Sophia Auld’s fresh warm bread. A “single biscuit” would also lead to animated discussions of why Frederick was a slave for life and why the white boys were free. The boys took him into their secret emotional havens and supported their enslaved friend. They told him slavery was unfair and that he would be free one day, especially when he turned twenty-one. Their words encouraged him, Douglass remembered. This convinced him that young boys were natural abolitionists, at least until they reached a certain age when they were no longer “unseared and unperverted” by slavery’s material and moral logic.

...by the time of writing Life and Times in 1881, he thanked four by name: Gustavus Dorgan, Joseph Bailey, Charles Farity, and William Cosdry. Here was Douglass’s first comradeship with young Irishmen, his first trusted experience with humanism beyond race. As white boys condemned the hypocrisy and oppression of their parents toward one of their favorite fellow street urchins, perhaps Douglass found
even ultimate experiential inspiration for his later speeches and writings. Whenever Douglass made arguments against slavery from the natural-rights tradition, which he did persistently after 1841, he could reflect upon this experience with the boys of Philpot Street, who often told him that “they believed I had as good a right to be free as they did,” and that “they did not believe God ever made anyone to be a slave.”

(Kindle Locations 996-999)



.

 

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Part 8:

After Frederick was sent back to the Eastern Shore, he cooked up an escape plan and led a small group of confederates on an ill-conceived dash for freedom. Recaptured, Douglass contemplated the punishment that awaited him. Blight writes that Douglass envisioned the probability that he would be sold South by Thomas Auld:

When his tense and indecisive owner finally showed up, to Frederick’s great surprise Auld had decided not to sell his slave, but to send him back to Baltimore with the promise that for good behavior, and learning a trade, Auld would free him on his twenty-fifth birthday. This moment may easily have been the greatest stroke of good luck in Douglass’s life, and he seems to have known it. Auld could have sent him “into the very everglades of Florida,” wrote Douglass of this turning
point, “beyond the remotest hope of emancipation; and his refusal to exercise that power must be set down to his credit.”
(Kindle Locations 1585-1587)

Douglass was sparred and Auld would have reason to regret his decision.
 

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Part 9:

Douglass returned to the Baltimore shipyards and learned the trade of a caulker. At six foot one inch, Douglass was a big, tough teenager. He needed his bulk to fend off white workmen who complained that he was taking a white man's job. One day he was beaten to a pulp by four of the white workmen. Returning to their earlier form, Hugh and Sophia Auld gently nursed him, and Hugh went to the local officials to try to get them to prosecute the white assailants. Because a white man could not be prosecuted on a black man's testimony, the case went nowhere.

Douglass, says Blight, became a brawler of necessity. He was regularly insulted and harassed by whites. The black man was at the mercy of his master, but even a concerned master could not protect him from the blows of other whites. Douglass later explained that the slaveowning whites and the dockyard owners profited from the competition they engendered between working class white and slaves that set off a race to the bottom over wages. As long as black and white workers were divided, both would be in servitude of the wealthy. Blight writes that:

The slaveholding class exploited the lethal tools of racism to convince the burgeoning immigrant poor, said Douglass, that “slavery is the only power that can prevent the laboring white man from falling to the level of the slave’s poverty and degradation.” (Kindle Locations 1643-1644)
 

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Part 10:

Blight explores the relation that led Frederick to take a wife, Anna, who would help him plot his escape. On September 3, 1838 Anna saw off her man at the train station. Disguised as a free black sailor, with another man's pass, Douglass made the "most famous" escape in American history. On his train North, he was recognized by a German immigrant, who fortunately had no heart to betray him. On Sept. 4, Douglass arrived at the Hudson ferry terminal in New Jersey and he sailed across the river to Chambers Street in Manhattan. He hoped no one noticed him back then. Today this is a marker commemorating his arrival.

He rejoiced at finally being a freeman, but he also realized that he had no plan beyond his arriving in New York. A black sailor directed to the home of black abolitionist David Ruggles. He stayed there a week, waiting for Anna to follow him. When she arrived, the two were legally married. Ruggles suggested that they move on to New Bedford, Mass. where Frederick could find work as a ship caulker in the shipyards there.

Frederick followed the advice, taking a steamer to Rhode Island and a stagecoach to New Bedford. There he was helped by the Johnsons, a black abolitionist couple. He changed his birth name, Frederick Bailey to the name he is now so well know for to avoid capture by slave catchers. Blight notes that while Douglass's bravery and intelligence were necessary to his escape, so was the help of his wife and the network of Black abolitionists in the Underground Railroad.
 
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Douglass must have caused some squirming in the chairs as he injected race so forthrightly into his rhetorical tribute. Grant might have inwardly flinched.
:D

Grant had Lincoln review the USCT regiments at Petersberg. He also most likely instructed Lincoln that the military consequences of abandoning emancipation would be immediate and decisively negative. So Grant was well aware of Lincoln's lack of contact with the freedmen and USCT.
 

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Part 11:

New Bedford was one of the safest places in America for a fugitive slave. The growing city had 300 fugitives scattered throughout its population. Its growing maritime industries needed workers and provided opportunities. Blight says that Douglass:

had been conditioned to consider slavery as the basis of wealth. Not in the whaling port. Working white men and black men alike owned homes and lived with dignity. Douglass seemed genuinely stunned at Yankee enterprise and apparent prosperity. (Kindle Locations 1871-1872)

The large Quaker population of the city enhanced the feeling of safety he enjoyed. The Quakers gave the whaling post a distinctively Abolitionist feel. Black religious life also thrived in the little African Methodist church that Douglass attended. He sometimes spoke from the pulpit to the congregation, gaining his first training in public speaking.

As early as 1840, local abolitionists had noticed the gifts of Frederick Douglass.
 

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Part 12:

Almost immediately after his arrival in New Bedford, Douglass registered to vote. In the words of Blight:

it is remarkable that the most famous black man of the nineteenth century, shortly after escaping from slavery, while living with a new, assumed name, with no other identification and certainly no proof of birth in the United States, and while still “illegal” as a fugitive from Southern justice and the property rights of his owner, could instantly become a voter by paying $1.50 and having his name placed on the tax rolls. (Kindle Locations 1942-1945).

Douglass also became a subscriber to The Liberator, the newspaper of the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. He began speaking on abolition around this time as well. His earliest public comments were in opposition to colonizationists.

In August, 1841, Preacher Douglass was invited to an abolition convention on Nantucket. When he boarded the ferry to the island, he and the other blacks were segregated from their white colleagues. Douglass spoke at the convention before a thousand people and he spoke from his intimate knowledge of slavery. Garrison wrote that “I shall never forget his first speech at the convention—the extraordinary emotion it excited in my own mind—the powerful impression it created..." Douglass was getting the attention of the leaders of the movement to end slavery.
 

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Part 13:

At the time Douglass was joining the abolitionist movement, its main organization, the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), was being torn apart by a new direction in Garrison's politics. Garrison advocated disunionism, abstention from electoral politics, and women's rights. None of these had universal acceptance among abolitionists. Garrison's attacks on established religion alienated many anti-slavery ministers. A large minority of the AASS broke off with the Tappan brothers into a more moderate movement willing to engage in legal challenges to slavery and electoral politics through the Liberty Party and, later, the Republican.

Frederick Douglass became a leading spokesman for the Garrisonian faction. He traveled throughout the North trying to use "moral suasion" to convince his listeners that slavery was immoral. He soon learned that he would be insulted and attacked on his peripatetic speaking tours. He was supposed to engage in principled "non-resistance" to whatever he was subjected to. Garrisonians practiced a radical non-violence.

By the time he was a touring lecturer, he was also the father of three little children. His wife Anna found herself in a pattern that would characterize the rest of her married life. She would stay home, caring for their children and providing a home for her increasingly famous husband, while seeing him less and less.

Only 23 at the start of his touring, and not long removed from slavery, Douglass was accused of merely reading speeches written for him by white men. But other observers saw the originality and intelligence of Douglass's speeches. The young man was aided in his speaking by a sharp sense of humor that made him as entertaining as he was challenging. Douglass particularly enjoyed skewering the racism of Protestant ministers North and South. Blight describes one such speech:

Douglass often began by reciting the story of the Reverend Isaac Bonney in New Bedford separating blacks from whites for Communion. But one Sunday Bonney blundered. After a baptism in which several white and one black woman had been anointed “in the same water,” the Communion cup was passed. A foolish, abolitionist-leaning deacon saw the black woman step in line between the whites, so he handed her the cup. But when “the precious blood which had been shed for all” reached the next white woman, “she rose in disdain and walked out of the church.” Brimming for the sarcastic kill, the orator did not stop there. “Another young lady fell into a trance,” barked Douglass. “When she awoke, she declared she had been to Heaven; her friends were all anxious to know what and whom she had seen there.” One “good old lady” especially needed to know “if she saw any black folks in Heaven?” Then came the punch line: “Oh! I didn’t go in the kitchen!”28 Douglass paced to another position on the platform awaiting the howling laughter to subside.
(Kindle Locations 2340-2345)
 

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Part 13:

By 1842 Douglass was speaking in front of crowds numbering in the thousands. He was frequently paired with the fiery Quaker abolitionist Abby Kelly on his tours. Churches that might welcome him as a speaker, refused their pulpits to her. Train conductors would try to separate them as they went from town to town. Douglass noted that if he was the slave of white woman he would be free to ride with her, but as the equal of Kelly he was an unacceptable companion. Abby Kelly was an early and vocal feminist and Blight thinks it likely that conversations with her led to Douglass's own developing support for women's rights.

The abolitionists found a particularly congenial reception in New York's "Burned Over District" along the Erie Canal. Cities from Albany to Buffalo had been opened to new ideas of equality, socialism, and feminism that made the words of Douglass and Kelly seem familiar. The Erie Canal and the expanding railroad system were the information superhighway of the early 1840s, and this part of New York State was on the main line.

During his 1843 tour, Douglass was scheduled to speak in Buffalo at the same time as the national Colored Convention was to be held there. Douglas attended as a delegate.

Douglass the Garrisonian would experience pushback from many of the other Black delegates. Most did not accept the anti-political and pacifist views espoused by Garrison. They insisted that they had rights under the United States Constitution, and that those blacks who could vote should support the political abolitionism of the Liberty Party.

Henry Garnet, himself an escaped slave from Maryland, called for militant action against slavery and implied that violent resistance to slavery by blacks was justified. Denmark Vesey was the guide star for freedom, he asserted, not William Lloyd Garrison. Nat Turner was the patriotic martyr of Black Americans. Garrison's pacifism needed to be rejected. Garnet told his listeners bluntly “Let your motto be RESISTANCE! RESISTANCE! RESISTANCE!”

With the audience in tears by the end of Garnet's speech, Douglass arose to speak. Blight recounts this early conflict between the two black abolitionists:

Douglass, partly from fledgling Garrisonian principle, but also from an emerging pragmatic and situational view of violence, objected: Garnet had called for “too much physical force,” and Douglass preferred “moral means a little longer.” To advocate “insurrection,” Douglass held, would be irresponsible and result in disaster. Garnet rose to reply and urged slaves to tell their masters they wanted their liberty; if denied, “we shall take it.” Just who “we” meant was unclear. Just how this was to be done was even less clear.

Douglass won the day on the use of violence. By the 1850s, he would come to largely support the views Garnet espoused.
 

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Part 14:

When Douglass went on his speaking tours, he was willing to risk his life to speak in hostile territory such as in pro-slavery southern Indiana. For example, during one small outside meeting in Pendleton, Indiana, a mob attacked the 130 abolitionists and they broke Douglass's hand and knocked him semi-unconscious. Douglass spoke again the next night from the same outdoor platform.

In 1845, Douglass's Narrative was published and he became the most famous black man in America. In revealing his identity to the world, Douglass opened himself up to recapture as a fugitive slave. Not only would his old master be able to track him down, but supporters of slavery who wanted to silence the abolitionist could use the fugitive slave laws to take him prisoner.

That summer, armed with his new book, Douglass set off on a speaking tour of Ireland and Britain. Crossing over, he was subjected to Jim Crow segregation, but was cheered that the Hutchinson family singers who accompanied him came below decks to cheer him. "We had anti-slavery singing and pro-slavery grumbling" he wrote later. When the abolitionists held a mini-camp meeting onboard, a slave-owning Georgian shouted, “I wish I had him in Savannah! We would use him up!” Some of the men rushed Douglass to try to throw him overboard, but an Irishman and the ship's captain blocked them. Douglass's bad treatment was widely broadcast in the Irish and British newspapers and Douglass believed that it swelled interest in his mission.
 

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Part 15:

Douglass arrived in Liverpool and promptly took the ferry to Ireland. Douglass wrote that his arrival in Ireland was the first time he had encountered no “manifestations of prejudice" against him based on race. He was allowed to stay where he wished and travel on transport without discrimination. In Ireland he “was not treated as a color, but as a man,” he wrote.

He was introduced to Dan O'Connell, the "Great Liberator" of the Irish. When he heard O'Connell speak, Douglass wrote home saying that he had never experienced such a captivating speech. He wrote that the address was “skillfully delivered, powerful in its logic, majestic in its rhetoric, biting in its sarcasm, melting in its pathos, and burning in its rebukes.”

Not all was work for Douglass. He spent a month in Cork relaxing, for the most part, in that fair city. Here, he gave a series of lectures and became the darling of the locals. Here, also, he had some freedom from the overweening attempts by the Garrisonians to control his message.

Douglass increasingly clashed with the Garrison faction in Ireland and Britain. One of them implied that he was more interested in making money from the sale of his book than in furthering Garrison's strategies. Douglass himself wanted his speeches to concentrate on the enslavement of blacks and not on the disputes among white abolitionists.

A resentful Douglass wrote that "I can say with propriety save me from my friends and I will take care of my enemies!” and "If you wish to drive me from the Antislavery Society, put me under overseer ship and the work is done." Still he continued on with his Irish tour, speaking in Limerick and spending nearly a month in Belfast.
 

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Part 16:

Douglass denied that there was any equivalence between American slavery and the terrible situation of the indigenous Irish. He said that while the Irish might be discriminated against, “slavery was not what took away any one right or property in man: it took man himself...from himself." The Irishman was poor, he told audiences, but he was not a slave.

Douglass did not know it, but his tour of Ireland came as the potato blight was beginning to destroy the livelihood and the lives of the indigenous Irish. Over the next four years a million Irish would die of the effects of malnutrition and a quarter of the population would become refugees from starvation. The deaths and dislocations were as much a product of British exploitation of Ireland's resources as they were of biological disaster. Douglass, who often expressed affection for the Irish poor, did not hesitate to blame them for the suffering that they were enduring.

After he left Ireland, he had time to reflect I what he had seen. He wrote, says Blight, that:

Too many self-styled “philanthropists,” maintained Douglass, “care no more about Irishmen . . . than they care about the whipped, gagged, and thumb-screwed slave. They would as willingly sell on the auction block an Irishman, if it were popular to do so, as an African.”

He could see commonalities among the oppressed, but as with his later discussions of Native Americans, he also differentiated their plight from that of enslaved blacks.
 

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Part 17:

“I have spent some of the happiest moments of my life since landing in this country,” Douglass wrote at the end of his time in Ireland. “I seem to have undergone a transformation. I live a new life. 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 have . . . no creed to uphold, no government to defend; and as a nation, I belong to none . . . The land of my birth welcomes me to her shores only as a slave.” Ireland, even in poverty, was far better than the United States. In Ireland he might be argued with, but he was not assaulted.

When Douglass next went to Scotland, he became embroiled in religious conflicts. Churches there had accepted donations from slaveholders, setting off splintering within sects. But not all was storm and trouble. Like many 19th Century Americans, he was a devotee of Robert Burns and he indulged his fandom by visiting sites associated with the poet.

In England philanthropists raised money to finally buy Douglass's freedom from Auld. His English friends arranged for his freedom to be purchased for 150 Pounds Sterling. Predictably, purists criticized him for paying money to a slaveowner, little considering the danger his public role placed him in.
 



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