Editorial Method

In preparing this collection of newspaper reports of Douglass’ speaking engagements in Scotland in 1846, 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).

This identifies over 70 meetings addressed by Douglass.  But some of these meetings 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. And there are 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).

The Frederick Douglass Papers includes full transcriptions of eighteen of these speeches, each based on the best newspaper report available. In this edition I have extended the work of Blassingame and his team in three ways:

  • transcribing the full text of the relevant newspaper report, and not just the section which reports Douglass’ contribution: including the contributions of other speakers (to whom Douglass often responded or anticipated in his speeches) and the introductory and closing remarks which often give revealing details about the circumstance of the meeting, the numbers attending and their response.
  • transcribing additional newspaper reports, if located, of the same speeches, which often include details missing from the fuller accounts, and in their wording and emphasis may shed additional light on what was said and how the speakers were received.
  • transcribing reports of speeches that were merely listed (or missed altogether) in the Yale University Press edition, even if (as is mostly the case) these accounts are shorter and less detailed than the others.

In all, this project aims to include accounts of over fifty meetings addressed by Douglass in Scotland in 1846. Some of these are composite accounts (reporting more than one meeting at once in a way that makes it impossible to separate them). Further investigations will no doubt allow more to be added in due course.

The texts will be published one by one during the course of 2019 on the anniversary of each speech (or group of speeches), starting (on 15 January 2019) with Douglass’ speech in Glasgow on 15 January 1846.

In transcribing the newspaper reports, I have made only minor changes. The texts themselves are presented without amendment, leaving typographical errors and misspellings as they are, sparingly marking some with [sic] and occasionally identifying factual mistakes in the notes. Frederick Douglass is often rendered as ‘Douglas’ in many reports, and I have not attempted to correct these.

I have, however, chosen to break up the long paragraphs into shorter ones to make it easier on the reader, and interpolated subheadings (in square brackets) to the same end. When a new speaker is indicated, I have highlighted this by rendering their name in different colour.  And, where practicable, have added hyperlinks to third party sources such as the English-language Wikipedia, the Internet Archive, the Documenting the American South project, the University of Michigan Library’s King James Bible, Open Source Shakespeare, and the Canmore catalogue of Scottish historical sites and buildings. They should provide more details of places, events and literary references for readers unfamiliar with them, leaving the footnotes for more expanded references and background information.

Each entry is preceded by an editorial introduction, placing the meeting in the context of Douglass’ broader itinerary, and drawing on other sources, such as letters written by Douglass and his associates, and reports of speeches given elsewhere.

For a select bibliography of the most important secondary sources, the reader is referred to the resources page.