On Tuesday 24 March, Frederick Douglass and James Buffum addresssed their second meeting at the Relief Church, Cathcart Street. We reproduce below the reports in the Ayr Advertiser (26 March) and Ayr Observer (31 March).
On Tuesday evening Mr Frederick Douglass delievered his Second and more interesting Lecture in the Relief Church. On this occasion the house was crowded in every available part – pews and passages being alike in request.
The Rev. Mr RENWICK again occupied the chair, and after offering up a short prayer, stated that in order to remove all doubt as to the character of Mr Douglass, he could assure the audience that he came accredited by the most unexceptionable testimonials. As a proof of his sincerity he would only say that the raising of money was not the object he had in view, but solely the dissemination of sound and experimental information as to the state of his oppressed countrymen in America. Having commended the cause and its pleader to the kind attention of the assembly, the Rev. gentleman concluded by introducing Mr Douglass.
Mr DOUGLASS said – I feel much delight in presenting myself to such a large and respectable audience as I now see before me. I am always delighted to meet with those who, in sympathising affection, assemble to consider the wrongs of their race. It is the peculiar characteristic of Christianity that it is a code of mercy, – that it interests itself in the welfare of man, – and is ever ready to lend its ear to the distressed, and to send them succour.
I am here tonight to let you know the wrongs, the miseries, and the stripes of three millions of human beings for whom the Saviour died; and though time would fail me to give all the details of the horrid system by which they are held, I yet hope to place before you sufficient facts to enlist your sympathies in their behalf. Having last night directed attention to the relations of master and slave, and to the perversion of Christianity by the slave-holders, I now wish to state a few facts which have come under my own experience.
[SLAVERY BREAKING UP FAMILIES]
I was born a slave. My master’s name is Thomas Auld. Besides me, he had other relations of our family whom he counted as his own property, and at this moment I have four sisters and one brother in the same state of degradation and bondage from which I myself have happily escaped. I have a grandmother who has reared twelve children, all of whom have been driven to the Southern slave market and sold; and now she is left desolate and forlorn, groping her way in the dark, without one to give her a cup of water in her declining moments.
Thus does slavery break asunder the parental and domestic ties; the mother is separated from her children – the husband from the wife – and the brother from the sister; while all are driven about, like beasts of burden, at the will of their oppressors. And yet among this class are to be found individuals of the most exalted virtue – true and honourable to each other, while uniting in hatred of those who call themselves their masters, and sometimes even living as man and wife, – joined no doubt by Him whose tie no one can break asunder, though unacknowledged by their heartless taskmasters.
I have an old aunt sold away 1000 miles from my grandmother, and three or four other relations are sharing the same doom, – all participating in the wrongs of the slave, who is denied every right, – moral, social, political, and religious, – and stript entirely of all that distinguishes man as a rational being. I was born in this condition myself. I owe my liberty and my learning all to stealth; and, in order to give you some idea of the manner in which I learned to read, I must communicate a little of my history.
When seven years old, I was sent by my master to his son-in-law’s, and there had the fortune to find a kind, and tender-hearted mistress.2 She was newly married, and her family never having kept slaves, I was treated by her with great lenity. She taught me my letters, and continued to instruct me till she learned that by so doing she was breaking the laws – for in America the crime of teaching a slave is punishable, in some parts, with death for the second offence. Her husband found out what she had been engaged in, and stopped her, at the same time saying that this was the very way to render slaves unmanageable, – which is indeed the true philosophy of all slaveholding. She did stop, but my master’s words sunk into my heart, young as I was, and the opposition thus given to my progress only incited me the more in the pursuit of education.
I obtained a primer – applied to boys on the street, when sent on messages, to instruct me – stealthily embraced every opportunity of advancement, till in four years I could in some measure read the Scriptures; and many a time have these hands (holding them up) lifted from the street the soiled waste leaf, cleaned and dried it, and then pored over it till I had mastered its contents.
When somewhat grown up, I was put into the ship-yard to pick oakum, boil pitch, and otherwise assist the carpenters. Here I learned the first rudiments of writing, by observing the marks which the workmen made on the wood, when fitting it for any particular part of the ship, and having mastered all that could be safely communicated here, I had again recourse to the boys on the streets, boasting of my little powers in order to excite them to a trial, by which I might learn what I was yet all but ignorant of. Many a time have they taken the chalk from me, with the contemptuous sneer, ‘can a nigger write?’ and displayed their superior powers, gratifying at once their own vanity and my most earnest wishes.
About this time I fell in with some old copy books of my young master, and by writing on the spaces betwixt the lines, soon rendered myself pretty expert at penmanship. By similar means I acquired a knowledge of figures, and learned the multiplication table, frequently the sand being the only place I had to practise on.
Thus persevering, I at length acquired, unknown to my master, a considerable knowledge of the English language, writing, and arithmetic, and it was just as he said, for the more learning and information I picked up, the more did I become convinced that I was held unjustly in slavery; the more did I see the unhallowed nature of those bonds which held me and my brethren from the rights of man, and the more determined was I to gain my liberty.
I looked on my cruel taskmasters with the utmost horror, and shuddered at the very presence of men who had robbed me of father, mother, and friends, – who had stripped me of every right which God had given to me – and who would, if they had been able, have crushed every aspiration after freedom in my bosom. I determined to be free, and from the age of ten years, was continually planning means to snap my chain; but it was not till I was twenty years old that I succeeded in what I had long toiled for.
The means of my escape I have never revealed, lest I should disclose to the cruel slaveholder what may be of use to his victims. The time may come when I may disclose this,1 but never will it be said that I have held up the lamp to the tyrant, in order to show the way by which he may overtake those who make their escape from him. I will not let him know the deadly enemies that continually surround him when pursuing the run-away, nor the unseen hands that are raised to strike him the deadly blow. I will not tell him the evils that hover over his path, nor ease the terrors that I know rankle in his breast; I would rather show him that even when surrounded by those whom he thinks he has subdued and humbled, he is yet in the midst of death, and that the negro crouching at his feet, has it in his heart to level him with the dust.
After my escape, I arrived at New Bedford, where I was engaged rolling oil casks on the quay, and doing anything that presented itself; yes, ladies and gentlemen, you must know that the individual who now addresses you even occupied at that time the elevated position of a chimney-sweep. (Cheers and laughter.) I must say that I worked harder then than when in slavery; but the work was pleasant, for I had an end to serve by it. I had not the mortification of seeing my wages taken by a cruel master, and spent in luxuries by him and his friends. No; I wrought for myself – I wrought for my wife, and I was contented and happy.
[BECOMES AN ABOLITIONIST LECTURER]
Mr. Douglass proceeded to state the circumstances which had first led to his appearance in public. He had been requested to address an abolitionist meeting by an individual who had heard him officiate in a Methodist class, and he thus described his sensations in appearing before an audience of white men:– ‘I was called on to tell what I had suffered, and what I thought and knew of slavery. I hesitated – I trembled. Accustomed to consider white men as my bitterest enemies, I dared not for some time look them in the face. I found, however, what I had never seen before, that the countenances of the audience were illumined with kindness – that I was indeed among a band of brothers – and so I proceeded to tell my simple tale. It had the desired effect. The woes of slavery coming from one who had seen them—who had felt them, created an impression on the meeting which was productive of great good.’
From that time he was taken under the auspices of the Abolitionist Society, and his humble labours had been blessed in the cause of his fellows. He had awakened an influence which was every day increasing, and swelling the tide which he hoped would soon beat down the prison walls of slavery. He had to practice all possible acts to conceal himself from the pursuit of those who thirsted for his blood; for, as he eloquently expressed himself – ‘there is no spot on the vast domains over which waves the star-spangled banner where the slave is secure; – go east, go west, go north, go south, he is still exposed to the bloodhounds that may be let loose against him; – there is no mountain so high – no valley so deep – no spot so sacred, but the man-stealer may enter and tear his victim from his retreat.’ (Cheers.)
As he had always, when lecturing, concealed the name of his master, and likewise changed his own, and at the same time withheld all the details of his escape, and where he had been born, suspicions were raised by the slaveholders, who were very much disturbed by his appearance in public, that he was an impostor. To counteract this he at length resolved to write his life, which he accordingly did, but this only exposed him still more to the rage of his persecutors. An answer was published to his life by one of them – a Mr. Thomson, a friend of his master’s – who, as argument against him, contended that he had none of the features of a slave, and particularly of the individual he represented himself to be. He could face white men – was learned – had not the crouching character of the negro – and, in short, was very different from the generality of slaves.3
Mr. Douglass at length felt that it was no longer safe to remain in America, as every means were being taken for his apprehension; he accordingly crossed the Atlantic, and he rejoiced that he now found in the paw of the British Lion that safety which had been denied him under the wide-spread wings of the American Eagle.
In reply to the defence of the slave-holders, which represented him as a ‘recreant slave,’ and his former master as all that was kind and charitable, he wrote an answer, which was published in the American abolitionist journals. He told them that ‘Frederick the free was a very different person from Frederick the slave; that although they had represented him as having been but an ordinary slave when in his master’s hands, (and, indeed, he did not claim to be anything extraordinary yet,) they must remember that emancipation made a slave a man, and little did they know his thoughts even when he was in their thraldom.’4 (Great applause.)
He told them, likewise, that they were greatly deceived if they judged of the minds of their slaves by their carriage before them. The poor wretches well knew, that if they showed the least symptoms of intelligence, heavy punishment awaited them, and thus they felt it to be [in] their interests to look as much as possible like insensible brutes.
[SLAVERY AND CHRISTIANITY]
Mr. Douglass, after dwelling on the controversy which had been raised on his account in America, and the good which was likely to result from it, proceeded to give some details of slavery in connection with Christianity. He said – ‘My master was a class-leader in a Methodist Chapel, and considered in every way, according to the standard of the place, an exemplary and pious man; yet I have seen the monster come home from his meeting, tie up my own cousin, and with his own hands apply the whip to her bare back till the warm red blood was dripping to her heels, and at the same time quoting the Scripture passage – “He that knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes!” It is quite customary to brand slaves, as the people in this country mark their cattle, but by a process the most cruel and agonising. The arm of the slave is stripped, or whatever part the instrument is to be applied to, and the branding iron, almost red hot, broils the name of the master into the quivering flesh of the wretched victim, causing the most excruciating agony. I have seen all this done by men calling themselves Christians; and not only this, but deeds of darkness too revolting to be told, and from which humanity would shudder.
[‘]A girl whom I knew had her ear nailed to a post, for attempting to escape, and yet so desperate had the cruelties inflicted on her person rendered her, that even this did not hold her, as she tore herself away from it, and escaped, leaving the half of her ear attached to the nail. She did escape, but so great was the effect of the injuries she received, that she, like many others, became an idiot. Thousands are thus bored and beaten, and all done under the sanction of the majesty of LAW, and in a country, too, which boasts of her liberty!
[‘]About five years ago,’ Mr. Douglass continued, ‘it was discovered that slavery had her stronghold in the church, – that under the very droppings of the sanctuary the chains and fetters of the slaves were forged, and that indeed Christianity had become so linked with slavery, that it was time for some great effort to be made to remedy the awful state of affairs. An effort was made. The churches in the northern states stood out against the accursed system, and declared that they could no longer hold fellowship with slave-tolerating bodies. Large denominations were rent in twain, but the cause of the poor slave prospered.5 Public opinion became arrayed on his side, and the feelings of the country were enlisted in his behalf.
[THE FREE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND]
[‘]The cause was triumphing gloriously, when it was doomed to receive a blow from an unsuspected quarter. The Free Church of Scotland, finding that they required money to build their churches and pay their ministers, resolved to send a deputation to American to endeavour to raise this. A mission came. They were met by a Committee of the Anti-slavery Society in New York, and beseeched and implored not to go among the slave-holders, as they would stain the cause of Christ, and stab that of the slave. They were told the state of public sentiment, and that nothing would give the slave-holders greater delight than to have their practices sanctioned by the descendants of Knox. They were told that if they went among them, the slaveholders would cast it in the teeth of the abolitionists, – “See, the religious intelligence of Scotland is on our side, and we care not for your enmity,” and thus they would give them cause for triumph.6
[‘]But the deputation heeded us not. They went to the southern states. They entered the pulpits, they joined in fellowship, and they engaged in the Lord’s Supper with the very men who were the props of slavery! They took their blood-stained money – money wrung from the groans, the sweat, the tears, and the blood of the slave, and now they are at home quietly enjoying the accursed thing. Was not this too bad? Was it Christian? I ask you was it a fair representation of the feelings and opinions of the people of Scotland, or of this audience? (Cries of No, No.) I was wont, when addressing an American assembly, to refer to the various movements in the cause of freedom going on in different parts of the world, and among them to the rise of the Free Church, and you may well conceive the grief I felt at hearing of this act. Look for a moment at what the slave holder does, and then you will have some idea of the body with which this Church has linked herself. He is a being who considers his slave only valuable to him as a brute is valuable, and who takes it upon him to degrade his soul and grind his faculties in every possible manner, – who separates all his social ties, and crushes him to the dust, – who bereaves him of all that makes life worth enjoying, and looks upon him only as a soulless and senseless creature. This is slavery, and it rises before us a solitary horror; yet to this monstrous curse has the Free Church allied herself – received it into her bosom, and welcomed it into her fellowship!’
Mr. Douglass dwelt long and eloquently on this part of his subject, gathering warmth as he advanced, and calling loudly, at every sentence, on the Free Church to SEND BACK THE MONEY! He brought every possible view of the subject before the audience, sometimes harrowing up their feelings with recitals of blood, and again persuasively and mildly reasoning the point; at one time cutting with the most vigorous sarcasm, and again assuming all the solemnity of a man deeply in earnest. He said it was not against the Free Church as a Church he aimed his arguments – his prepossessions were in her favour – but against her alliance with the curse of slavery, and stated that any other Church, even the one under whose roof he then stood, would meet with the same castigation if found perpetrating the same abomination. The only remedy for the evil was to send back the money, an exclamation which he vehemently repeated time after time.
This subject occupied his attention till a late period of the evening, the audience all the while expressing their entire concurrence in the sentiments advanced, and energetically cheering him throughout the time he discussed it. He concluded by calling on the members of the Free Church to exert their influence in the cause of the poor slave, and stated that a movement had already risen among them, particularly in the north, which he hoped would yet have the effect of revoking the act of the General Assembly, and cause them to send back the money. Mr. Douglass took his seat amid prolonged applause.
Mr BUFFUM shortly addressed the meeting, following up the arguments of the previous speaker, by showing the character of the ministers in the slave-holding States. One of them he knew made it his boast how well he could apply the whip to the back of his female slaves; another kept bloodhounds to let loose on those who ran off; and an elder he knew could only engage in the exercises of the sanctuary with warmth and zeal if he had scourged a slave before coming; with many similar examples of brutality. He concluded by exhibiting a number of instruments used among the slave-holders, consisting of collars, handcuffs, fetters, whips, &c., which excited feelings of the utmost horror in the minds of the audience, as he accompanied them with accounts of how he had got possession of them, they having been for the most part taken from the persons of runaway slaves.
Mr DOUGLASS proposed a vote of thanks to the managers of the Relief Church, and stated that there was some probability of his again visiting Ayr, concluding by an eloquent apostrophe to Burns and his love of liberty.
Mr RENWICK having pronounced the blessing, the meeting dispersed.
Ayr Advertiser, 26 March 1846
ANTI-SLAVERY MEETING: SECOND LECTURE
On Tuesday evening last, Mr Frederick Douglas delivered his second lecture in the Relief Church, which was crowded in every part.
The chair was again occupied by the Rev. Mr Renwick who, after engaging in prayer, stated that, to remove all doubt as to the character of Mr Douglas, he could assure the audience he was not an imposter, that he came aided by the very best testimonials; and, as a proof of his sincerity, he would only say that he came not here pleading for money, but merely for the purpose of giving information as to the state of his countrymen in America. The rev. gentleman concluded by recommending to the attention of the audience the cause and its pleader, and introduced Mr Douglas.
Mr Douglas said – He had great pleasure in standing there that night before so large and intelligent an audience. He was always delighted to meet with those who assembled to consider the condition and wrongs of their fellow men. He was there for the purpose of bringing before them the wrongs of a people for whom Christ died; and, although time would not permit him to give all the details of the miseries of three millions of human beings, yet he would strive to place before them sufficient facts to enlist their sympathies in behalf of these slaves.
[SLAVERY BREAKING UP FAMILIES]
Having last night directed attention to the relation of masters and slaves, he would content himself that evening with stating a few facts regarding slavery, as they had come under his own observation. He was born a slave. His master’s name was Thomas Auld. He had a number of other slaves; and at present four sisters of his (the lecturer’s) and one brother were in slavery in the United States. He had a grandmother who had reared twelve children, all of whom had been driven to the southern market for sale; and now she was desolate, and without one to give her a drop of water in her declining years.
Hence it would be seen that slavery took the children from the slave mother, the husband from the wife, and the brother from the sister, and sold them for the sake of poor paltry gold. Slaves lived together without the form of marriage, because marriage was not respected by the slave-masters; yet there were cases where such persons lived together honourably and true to each other – joined, no doubt, by him whose ties no one could break asunder. But the slave-holder tore these parties asunder. He had an aunt sold a thousand miles away from his grandmother, and three or four other relatives who had shared the same doom. Slaves were denied every right – moral, social, political, and religious – and stripped entirely of all that distinguished man as a rational being.
He (the lecturer) was never taught to read English, having learned all he knew by stealth; and in order to give some idea of how he learned to read, he communicated a little of his history. When about seven years of age, he was sent by his master to his son-in-law’s house. When he went there to live he found Mrs Auld a very kind, warm-hearted woman, and disposed to treat him as a human being. She never had had a slave under her control before, being but newly married. She treated him very kindly; and also commenced to learn him the letters of the alphabet, until she succeeded in teaching him to spell words of three or four letters. But she learned that by so doing she was breaking the law. As soon as his master found out what was going on, he told her to stop immediately, because it would never do to instruct a negro. Mrs Auld ceased to instruct him; but the words of his master sunk deeply into his heart.
Young as he was, the opposition thus given to his progress only incited him the more in the pursuit of education. When sent on an errand, if he met with little boys playing on the streets, he would ask them to give him lessons, which they readily did. In four years he could in some measure read the Scriptures; and many a time had he lifted from the street, the soiled and waste leaf, cleaned and dried it, pored over it till he had mastered its contents.
When grown up, he was put into a ship-yard, for the purpose of waiting upon the men, boiling pitch and running errands. Having thus occasion to be often in the ship-yard beside the men, he observed them making marks upon the wood when giving it out for a particular part of the ship; and in a little he was able to make a letter – which letter he found was L. He inquired what L was for, and was told it stood for larboard. Again, he found he was able to make an S, and inquired what S was for, and was told it stood for starboard. In this way he mustered all that could be safely communicated there, and he again had recourse to the boys on the streets, boasting of his little powers in order to excite them to a trial, by which he learned what he was as yet all but ignorant of. He would say to them – ‘Boys, I can write.’ They would reply, ‘No, you cannot write, negroes cannot write’; and in order to show him their superiority (gratifying at once their own vanity and his most earnest wishes), they would take out their chalk, and make an excellent capital, and in this way he got a good idea of how to write. He made all the letters without the aid of a teacher or a book.
About this time he fell in with some old copy books belonging to his young master, and by writing on the spaces between the lines, he soon rendered himself pretty expert in penmanship. The he went on still further. He got a book, and by similar means learned the multiplication table – frequently the sand being the only place he had to practice on. Then persevering, he at last acquired, unknown to his master, a considerable knowledge of the English language, writing and arithmetic; and it was just as his master said – it convinced him that he was held unjustly to slavery, and determined him the more to gain liberty.
He looked upon slave-holders, no matter what was their profession of religion, as robbers. He shuddered at the very presence of men who had robbed him of father, mother, and friends – who had stripped him of every right which God had given him, and who would, if they had been able, have crushed every aspiration after freedom in his bosom. He determined to be free; and from ten years of age he was constantly devising some plan by which he might snap the chain and get his freedom; but it was not till he was nearly twenty-one years of age that he accomplished his object.
About seven years ago he succeeded in escaping from slavery. The mode of that escape he had resolved to keep secret; for should he publish how he escaped, it would be the means of making known to the slave-holder that which might be of use to his victims. He was anxious to keep the slave-holders in utter darkness. The time might come when he would disclose this; but never would it be said that he had help up the lamp to the tyrant, in order to show the way by which he might prevent slaves from making their escape. He would not tell him the evils that he knew hovered over his path; he would rather show him that, even when surrounded by those he thought he had subdued, he was yet in the midst of death, and that the negro had it in his heart to level him with the dust.
About seven years ago he went to live in New Bedford, where he did anything that presented itself. ‘Yes ladies and gentlemen (bowing to the audience), you must know that your humble servant occupied at one time the elevated situation of a chimney-sweep.’ (Laughter.) It might be said that he worked harder after he became a free man than he did when a slave; but this work was not hard because he had some object to work for – he wrought for himself and for his wife, and he felt contented and happy.
[BECOMES AN ABOLITIONIST LECTURER]
After being in New Bedford for about three years, he was asked to attend an anti-slavery meeting, having by this time succeeded in getting himself into good circumstances. After some persuasion, he resolved to attend; and when there was called again by a white gentleman, who had heard him speak in a Methodist meeting. That gentleman was anxious that he should tell what he knew of the working of slavery, to aid the abolitionists to the cause of the slaves. He went forward, trembling, and spoke a few words against slavery, which created great excitement. His words had the desired effect.
The abolitionists then insisted upon his going out into the United States. He, however, had to keep concealed the facts of his case. He had to conceal the name of his master, the name of the town and country from which he had ran. He had to conceal himself from the pursuit of those who thirsted for his blood; for there was no spot on the vast domains over which waves the star-spangled banner where the slave is secure. Go east, go west, go north, go south, he is still exposed to the bloodhounds that may be let loose against him; there is no mountain so high, no valley so deep, no spot so sacred, but the man-stealer may enter and tear his victim from his retreat. (Cheers.)
Suspicions were raised by the slave-holders, who were very much disturbed by his appearing in public, that he was an imposter. To counteract this, he at length published his life, which only exposed him still more to the rage of his persecutors. It was asked, ‘Why does he not tell me who was his master?’
Mr Douglas at length discovered that it was no longer safe to remain in America, and he took an opportunity of leaving the country as soon as the excitement was somewhat over. He had to be very cautious in order to get liberated. He was yet a fugitive slave, and denied a place at home. He had trod upon the sacred soil of Britain, and he rejoiced that he had found that safety which had been denied him under the wide-spread wings of the American eagle. The slave-holders of America might haunt him in New England; but in the name of the British lion, they dare not come hither.
The publication of his narrative endangered his freedom; and since he had left, an answer had been published by a Mr Thomson, a friend of his master, who, as an argument against him, contended that he had none of the features of a slave, and particularly of the individual he represented himself to be. He could face white men, was learned, had not the crouching character of the negro, and in short, was very different from the generality of slaves. In reply to the defence of the slave-holder, which represented him as a ‘recreant slave,’ and his former master as all that was kind and charitable, he wrote an answer, which was published in the American abolitionist journals. He told them that Frederick the free was a very different person from Frederick the slave; that although they had represented him as having been but an ordinary slave when in his master’s hands (and indeed, he did not claim to be anything extraordinary yet), they must remember that emancipation made a slave a man, and little did they know his thoughts even when he was in their thraldom. (Great applause.) He was, however, aware that no sensible, unprejudiced person would credit such a ridiculous publication – it had falsehood upon every passage.
When he was a slave, his master knew him by the name of Frederick Augustus Washington Baillie; but in order to prevent himself from being identified, he had called himself Frederick Douglas.7 He told them, likewise, that they were greatly deceived if they judged of the minds of their slaves by their carriage before them. The poor slaves knew that if they showed any symptoms of intelligence, heavy punishment awaited them; and thus they felt it to be their interest to look as much as possible like insensible brutes in the presence of their master.
[SLAVERY AND CHRISTIANITY]
Mr Douglas, after some farther remarks, alluded to the wrongs of the slaves. He said he would like to call their attention to some of the laws of slavery. He could not better appeal to them than by exposing to them these laws. He had told them of the slave holders’ religion. He ought to have told them that his own master was a class-leader in a Methodist chapel, and considered in every way, according to the standard of the place, a very pious individual; yet he has seen that man tie up his (Mr D.’s) own cousin, a young woman, and, with his own hands, whip her on the bare back till the warm red blood was dropping to her heels, at the same time quoting the Scripture passage – ‘He that knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.’ This he had seen.
It was quite customary to brand slaves – just as customary as it is to mark cattle in this country. The process is one of a most horrible and agonising description. The arm of the slave is stripped where the instrument is to be applied, and the branding iron, almost red-hot, broils the name of the master into the quivering flesh of the unhappy man, causing the most excruciating agony. This he had seen done by men calling themselves christians; and not only this, but deeds of darkness to revolting to be told, and from which humanity would shudder.
He knew a girl who attempted to escape from slavery. She was overtaken and carried back; and her cruel master deliberately nailed her ear to a post; but yet so desperate had the cruelties inflicted on her person rendered her, that she tore away from the post, leaving the half of her ear behind her. She succeeded after all in escaping; but she is not now the woman she once was. Thousands are thus bored and beaten, and all done under the sanction of the majesty of law, and in a country, too which boasts of its liberty.
About five years ago, continued Mr Douglas, it was discovered that slavery had her stronghold in the church – that under the very droppings of the sanctuary the chains and fetters of the slaves were forged, and that indeed Christianity had become so linked with slavery, that it was time for some great effort to be mad to remedy the awful state of affairs. An effort was made. The churches in the northern states stood out against the accursed system, and declared that they should no longer hold fellowship with slave-holding bodies. Large denominations were rent in twain; but the cause of the poor slave prospered. Public opinion became arrayed on his side, and the feelings of the country were enlisted in his behalf.
[THE FREE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND]
The cause was triumphing gloriously, when it was doomed to receive a blow from an unsuspected quarter. The Free Church of Scotland, finding that it required money to build its churches, and pay its ministers, sent a deputation to the United States, for the purpose of soliciting aid to the cause of Christ in this country. A mission came, and when it arrived in the United States, its members were met at New York by a Committee of the Anti-Slavery Society, and beseeched not to go among the slave-holders, so they would state the cause of Christ and state that of the slaves. They were told the state of public sentiment; and that nothing would give the slave-holders greater delight than to have their practices sanctioned by the descendants of Knox.
But the deputation heeded them not: they went among the slave-holders, entered the pulpits, joined in fellowship, and engaged in the Lord’s Supper with the very men who were the props of slavery. They took their blood-stained money – money wrung from the groans, the sweat, the tears, and the blood of the slave; and now they were at home quietly enjoying the accursed thing. Was not this too bad? Was it Christian? Was that mission a fair representation of the feelings and opinions of the people of Scotland, or of this audience? (Cries of No, no.)
He was wont, when addressing an American assembly, to refer to the various movements in the cause of freedom, going on in different parts of the world, add amongst them to the rise of the Free Church, and they might well conceive the grief he felt at hearing of this act. Look for a moment at what the slave-holder does, and then they would have some idea of the body with which this Church had linked herself. He is a being who considers his slave only valuable to him as a brute is valuable, and who takes it upon him to degrade his soul and grind his faculties in every possible manner – who separates all the social ties, and crushes him in the dust – who bereaves him of all that makes life worth enjoying, and looks upon him only as a soulless and senseless creature. This is slavery, and it rises before us a solitary horror; yet to this monstrous curse the Free Church allied herself; she has received it into her bosom, and welcome it into her fellowship.
After dwelling upon this point for some time, and with much ability, showing the grievous sin against humanity of which the Free Church had been guilty, he went on – growing warmer as he proceeded – to show that it was with men-stealers that the Church had allied herself. The slave-holder took that which belonged to another. He (the lecturer) maintained that the body of the slave belonged to himself. His hands, the strength of his arms, and the passions of his heart, God had given to him; and if God had given him all the power which he possessed, what right had any man to take it away?
After some farther remarks, he said – If there was a church of sheep-stealers – if the minister in the pulpit was a sheep-stealer, precentor was a sheep-stealer, if all the congregation were sheep-stealers – what would this audience say of a church that went and took this sheep-stealing church by the hand? The cases were the same, only the case that had occurred was a more infamous.
He charged the Free Church of Scotland with going to a land of men-stealers, while they had a good right to know that all these men possessed was the gains of man-stealing.
He charged them with going to the United States, with an understanding that they were going among men upholding the cause of slavery, and with an intention to take the money of slave-masters to build Free Churches and pay Free Church ministers.
He charged them, while here, with preaching only such doctrines as would be received by slave-holders, and with having adopted the name of Free Church while they were particularly doing the work of a slave church.
He then called upon the Free Church, if they were willing to do anything against slavery, to SEND BACK THE MONEY! Let the cry go abroad among the community here – SEND BACK THE BLOOD-STAINED MONEY! The Free Church had it in their power to do more for the anti-slavery causes than any other Church had the power to do; but he was afraid they would take money from anybody.
O’Connell, with all his fondness for money, could not find it in his heart to take the blood-stained American dollars; but the Free Church had none of these scruples.8 Better would it be for them to go begging upon their hands and knees, than to sin their souls with the blood of men in slavery; for it would be required of them at the day of judgment.
Mr Douglas then, after a few farther comments, concluded, reiterated in his remarks the cry – SEND BACK THE BLOOD-STAINED MONEY!
Mr Buffum then rose and addressed the meeting at some length. He said it would be presumption on his part to detain them with any remarks regarding the wrongs of the slaves, after what had been advanced by his friend Mr Douglas. He showed the character of the ministers in the slave-holding States. One of them he knew made it his boast how well he could apply the whip to the back of his female slaves; another kept bloodhounds to let loose on those who ran off; and an elder he knew could only engage in the exercises of the sanctuary with warmth and zeal if he had scourged a slave before coming; with many similar examples of brutality. He then rebuked the Free Church for the part they had taken in encouraging slavery.
He exhibited a number of instruments used by the slave-holders for punishing runaway slaves: they consisted of iron collars, handcuffs, fetters, whips, &c., and excited feelings of horror and indignation in the minds of the audience. Mr B. accompanied the exhibition with accounts of the way in which he got possession of the various instruments. He concluded by saying that he felt, except for their conduct in the matter of the slave dollars, no enmity at all to the Free Church.
Mr Douglas again rose, and expressed his thanks, and those of his friend Mr Buffum, to the managers of the Relief Church, for having so kindly thrown upon its doors, to allow himself and friend to address them on the subject of slavery. At some future time, he said, he might be again in Ayr; and he was proud of having been in the land of him who had spoken out so nobly against the oppressions and the wrongs of slavery – he alluded, of course, to Robert Burns. Mr Douglas thanked the audience for the attention with which they had listened, and sat down amidst much applause.
Mr Renwick pronounced the blessing, and the meeting broke up.
Ayr Observer, 31 March 1846
- Douglass did not reveal the details of his escape until 1881 . See Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, His Early Life as a Slave, His Escape from Bondage, and His Complete History to the Present Time (Hartford, CT: Park Publishing Co., 1881), pp. 196-201.
- Hugh and Sophia Auld, who lived in Baltimore.
- A.C.C.Thompson made these claims in the Delaware Republican, reprinted as ‘To the Public – Falsehood Refuted’, Liberator, 12 December 1845.
- Douglass here paraphrases his response to Thompson’s allegations in a letter to Wiliam Lloyd Garrison, Perth, 27 January 1846 (Liberator, 27 February 1846, reprinted inThe Frederick Douglass Papers, Series Three: Correspondence, Volume 1: 1842–52, edited by John R. McKivigan (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), p. 85). A slightly different version appeared in an appendix to Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself, 2nd Irish edition (Dublin: Chapman and Webb, 1846), p. cxxvii.
- The Presbyterian Churches in the United States had split on North-South lines in 1837 and the Baptist and Methodist Churches followed in 1844-45, but the Northern Churches were not exempt from censure from abolitionists. See Hilrie Shelton Smith, In His Image, But…: Racism in Southern Religion, 1780–1910 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1972), pp. 74–128; Milton Sernett, Black Religion and Ameriican Evangelicalism: White Protestants, Plantation Missions, and the Flowering of Negro Christianity, 1787–1865 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1975), pp. 36–58; and John R. McKivigan, The War Against Proslavery Religion: Abolitionism and the Northern Churches, 1810–1865 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984).
- A remonstrance, dated ‘New York, April 2, 1844’ was addressed to the members of the Free Church delegation to the United States, and signed by the executive committee of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, repr. Liberator, 26 April 1846 (from the New-York Commercial Advertiser) and published as Letter from the Executive Committee of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society to the Commissioners of the Free Church of Scotland (Edinburgh: Myles Macphail, ).
- Douglass was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. He changed his name several times after his escape from slavery, eventually settling on ‘Douglass’, suggested by his host in New Bedford, Nathan Johnson, who had been reading Walter Scott‘s ‘Lady of the Lake’. On Douglass’ decision to adopt ‘one of Scotland’s many famous names’, see Alasdair Pettinger, Frederick Douglass and Scotland, 1846: Living an Antislavery Life (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018), pp. 107–14.
- In a notorious speech at a meeting of the Repeal Association in Dublin on 11 May 1843, Daniel O’Connell declared his intention to refuse ‘blood-stained money’ from pro-slavery Repeal groups in the United States. The speech was reported in the Liberator, 9 and 30 June 1843, and in the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Reporter, 9 August 1843.