Douglass made several tours of Scotland in 1846, the first and longest lasting four months. He spent a total of nearly six months in Scotland between January and October, addressing at least seventy meetings, probably many more.
Full texts of newspaper reports of meetings addressed by him will be added to this site during 2019, starting, on 15 January, with his first speech in Scotland, the one he gave in Glasgow on 15 January 1846.
Douglass and his fellow campaigners spoke mostly at two kinds of venue.
They held public meetings at civic halls and meeting rooms, such as the City Hall and the Assembly Rooms in Glasgow, the Exchange Rooms in Paisley, the Music Hall (now the Assembly Rooms) and Waterloo Rooms in Edinburgh, the City Hall in Perth and the Assembly Rooms (now the Music Hall) in Aberdeen – and many of them still exist today.
They also addressed audiences in numerous churches, usually belonging to the United Secession Church or the Relief Church (the two denominations merged in 1847 to form the United Presbyterian Church). Most of these church buildings have since been demolished or rebuilt beyond recognition.
In drawing up a list of his speaking engagements, my starting point was the list published in The Frederick Douglass Papers. Series One: Speeches, Debates and Interviews. Volume 1: 1841-46, under the general editorship of John W. Blassingame (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979).
But some meetings are listed there which certainly did not take place: Douglass did not accompany fellow anti-slavery campaigner Henry Clarke Wright on his tour of the Borders in March and April, for instance. I have not included them here, nor a few others for which I have been unable to find independent confirmation. On the other hand, I have found evidence of meetings which are not listed in the Frederick Douglass Papers. For more details of evidence used to identify meetings and locations (still the subject of ongoing research) see Douglass: Speaking Engagements working document (pdf).
Some important local history research has revealed interesting details about the places Douglass spoke at in Greenock and Fenwick.
For a broader picture of Douglass’ tour of Britain and Ireland, see Hannah-Rose Murray’s excellent Frederick Douglass Map. In October 2018 the National Library of Scotland produced interactive maps showing the locations where Douglass and other black abolitionists spoke in Scotland.
An asterisk indicates that the exact date is not certain. One may assume the meetings took place in the evening unless specified otherwise.
Where the venue is known, I have tried to link it to a matching record in the Canmore database of historic sites and buildings in Scotland, which gives its precise location and often provides some history of the site or building in question (although the record does not always recognise its use in 1846). Another useful resource is the Dictionary of Scottish Architects 1660-1980 where you can search for buildings as well as architects.
Accompanied by his white abolitionist friend, James Buffum, Douglass arrived in Ardrossan from Belfast on Saturday 10 January and proceeded by train to Glasgow.
- Thu 15 Jan: Glasgow, City Hall.
- Fri 23 Jan: Perth, City Hall.
- Mon 26 Jan: Perth, City Hall.
- Tue 27 Jan: Dundee, School Wynd Chapel.
- Wed 28 Jan: Dundee, School Wynd Chapel.
- Thu 29 Jan: Dundee, School Wynd Chapel.
- Fri 30 Jan: Dundee, Bell Street Chapel.
- Mon 9 Feb: Dundee, McGavin’s Chapel, Tay Square.
- Tue 10 Feb: Arbroath, Trades’ Hall.
- Wed 11 Feb: Arbroath, Abbey Church.
- Thu 12 Feb: Arbroath, Abbey Church.
- Wed 18 Feb: Glasgow, Assembly Rooms (afternoon). ‘Ladies Meeting.’
- Wed 18 Feb: Glasgow, City Hall. Scottish Temperance League.
- Thu 26 Feb: Montrose. Mr Hyslop’s Chapel, Market Street.
- Fri 27 Feb: Montrose. Mr Hyslop’s Chapel, Market Street.
- Sat 28 Feb: Montrose. Thistle Hall, Bridge Street.
- Mon 2 Mar: Aberdeen, Bon Accord Music Hall, George Street.
- Fri 6 Mar: Aberdeen. Assembly Rooms, Union Street.
- Mon 9 Mar: Montrose, Mr Hyslop’s Chapel, Market Street.
- Tue 10 Mar: Dundee, School Wynd Chapel. ‘Anti-Slavery Soiree.’
- Tue 12 Mar: Perth (afternoon). ‘A meeting of ladies.’
- Tue 12 Mar Perth, City Hall. ‘Anti-Slavery Soiree.’
- Tue 17 Mar: Paisley, William Nisbet’s Church, 16 Abbey Close.
- Thu 19 Mar: Paisley, William Nisbet’s Church, 16 Abbey Close.
- Fri 20 Mar: Paisley, William Nisbet’s Church, 16 Abbey Close.
- Mon 23 Mar: Ayr, Relief Church, Cathcart Street.
- Tue 24 Mar: Ayr, Relief Church, Cathcart Street.
- Wed 25 Mar: Kilmarnock, George Inn Hall.
- Thu 26 Mar: Kilmarnock, Clerk’s Lane Chapel.
- Fri 27 Mar: Kilmarnock, Low Church.
- Mon 30 Mar: Paisley, William Nisbet’s Church, 16 Abbey Close. Temperance Meeting.
- Tue 31 Mar: Bonhill, [Relief Church?]. Probably the first of several meetings in the Vale of Leven.
- Fri 3 Apr: Kilmarnock, Clerk’s Lane Chapel.
- Sat 4 Apr: Fenwick, Secession Church.
- Mon 6 Apr: Paisley, William Nisbet’s Church, 16 Abbey Close.
- Fri 10 Apr: Greenock, West Blackhall Street Chapel.
- Fri 17 Apr: Paisley, Exchange Rooms.
- Tue 21 Apr: Glasgow, City Hall.
- Thu 23 Apr: Glasgow, Assembly Rooms (afternoon).
- Thu 23 Apr: Glasgow, City Hall.
- Sat 25 Apr: Paisley, West Relief Church, Canal Street and William Nisbet’s Church, 16 Abbey Close.
- Tue 28 Apr: Edinburgh, McGilchrist’s Church,19 Rose Street.
- Wed 29 Apr: Edinburgh, McGilchrist’s Church,19 Rose Street.(afternoon). ‘Ladies’ Meeting.’
- Fri 1 May: Edinburgh, Waterloo Rooms. ‘Public breakfast’ followed by meeting of the Edinburgh Ladies’ Emancipation Society (afternoon).
- Fri 1 May: Edinburgh, Music Hall.
- Thu 7 May: Edinburgh, McGilchrist’s Church,19 Rose Street.
- Fri 8 May: Edinburgh, Broughton Place Church. Attends fifth day of the United Associate Synod.
Douglass left for London on 17 or 18 May to attend the anniversary meeting of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, although he had scheduled meetings in Kirkcaldy (19 May) and Edinburgh (20 and 22 May), which went ahead without him. He returns on 23 or 24 May.
- Mon 25 May: Edinburgh, Music Hall.
- Wed 27 May: Edinburgh, Music Hall.
- Thu 28 May: Leith.
- Mon 1 Jun: Kirkcaldy, Bethelfield Chapel.
- Tue 2 Jun: Edinburgh, Music Hall.
- Thu 4 Jun: Edinburgh, Music Hall.
- Tue 9 Jun: Edinburgh, Music Hall.
His next known engagement was in Belfast on 16 June. He was back in Liverpool on 4 July seeing off his friend Buffum, heading back to Massachusetts, after which he returned to Belfast for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Douglass then sailed to Ardrossan and thence to Edinburgh via Glasgow.
- Fri 31 Jul: Edinburgh, Brighton Street Chapel. Scottish Anti-Slavery Society meeting ‘to commemorate the anniversary of the emancipation of the slaves in the West Indies.’
Douglass left Edinburgh for Newcastle on 1 August, and thence to London where he met William Lloyd Garrison, newly-arrived from Boston. The following month they both travelled to Scotland, but while Garrison travelled direct from London to Glasgow, arriving on the evening of 19 September, Douglass spoke in Sunderland on 18 September and did not rejoin him until 21 September. They had hoped to speak at City Hall, Glasgow on 21 September, but the meeting had to be postponed because the building ‘was to be occupied during the week with an exhibition of statuary.’
- Tue 22 Sep: Greenock.
- Wed 23 Sep: Paisley, Secession Church, 21 George St.
- Thu 24 Sep: Edinburgh, Brighton Street Chapel.
- Fri 25 Sep: Edinburgh. Edinburgh Female Anti-Slavery Meeting.
- Fri 25 Sep: Edinburgh, Brighton Street Chapel.
- Mon 28 Sep: Dundee, Bell Street Hall.
- Tue 29 Sep: Edinburgh.
- Wed 30 Sep: Glasgow, City Hall.
- Thu 1 Oct: Glasgow, City Hall (afternoon).
- Thu 1 Oct: Glasgow, City Hall.
- Fri 2 Oct: Glasgow, Eagle Temperance Hotel (morning)
- Fri 2 Oct: Kilmarnock (afternoon).
Douglass and Garrison then took the overnight steamer from Ardrossan to Belfast, where they spoke on 3 October. After speaking in Liverpool on 19 October, Douglass, Garrison and George Thompson took the train to Fleetwood on 20 October, then the overnight boat to Ardrossan, and headed for Edinburgh via Glasgow arriving just in time for the evening meeting.
- Wed 21 Oct: Edinburgh, Brighton Street Chapel.
- Thu 22 Oct: Kirkcaldy, Bethelfield Chapel.
- Fri 23 Oct: Dundee, James’ Chapel, Bell Street.
- Sat 24 Oct: Perth, City Hall
- Mon 26 Oct: Perth, City Hall.
- Wed 28 Oct: Glasgow, City Hall.
- Thu 29 Oct: Edinburgh, Music Hall.
- Mon 2 Nov: Hawick, West-End Chapel.
The next morning Douglass took the morning coach south. He was one of many supporters who saw Garrison off when he departed from Liverpool for Boston on 4 November.
One comment on “Speaking Engagements”
Superbe research. Well, well done.