Douglass had accompanied the celebrated Bostonian abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison on most of his speaking engagements in England after meeting him a few days after he landed in Liverpool on 31 July. But in September they made their way separately to Glasgow.
Garrison arrived first, on the evening of Saturday 19th, full of a cold, brought on by an exhausting journey from London in cold, wet weather. He was welcomed at the station in Glasgow by Andrew Paton, a committee member of Glasgow Emancipation Society, who took him to his residence at 16 Richmond Street, ‘where I received a hearty welcome from his sister Catherine, one of a small but devoted band of true-hearted women in Glasgow, whose labors in the cause are beyond all praise.’1
Douglass joined him on the Monday, after speaking in Sunderland on Friday 18th. They had planned to address a meeting at City Hall that evening but found that the building ‘was to be occupied during the week with an exhibition of statuary’.2 Instead they were introduced to members of the Committee of Glasgow Emancipation Society at the Eagle Temperance Hotel where, recalled Garrison, ‘we had a social chit-chat, over a cup of tea’; it was ‘a very pleasant interview, which lasted till midnight.’3
The following evening they addressed a meeting in Greenock. No newspaper report of this meeting has come to light, but in his letters Garrison left an account of it. Garrison does not specify the venue of the meeting, but, according to Colin MacDonald’s research on Frederick Douglass in Greenock, it was probably the Mid-Kirk on Cathcart Square – close by Melvin’s Temperance Hotel, which he identifies as the hotel where Garrison says they lodged that night, a site now occupied by local government offices. Although Douglass did not appear to join Garrison until the evening, we reproduce here the parts of Garrison’s letters that cover his activities earlier in the day as well as the evening meeting.
To Henry Clarke Wright
Our faithful friend John Murray was up from Bowling Bay; and I went down with him, yesterday morning, to his romantic and quiet residence, where I got a very kind reception from his wife and family, and spent a portion of the day with him in climbing the neighboring hills, and talking about you and the other anti-slavery friends who had visited Bowling Bay, at various periods – &c. &c.
In the evening, we went to Greenock, where a meeting had been hastily, and, of course, imperfectly called, to be addressed by Frederick, (who had preceded us thither,) and myself. It was held in a very large church, and a somewhat numerous and very respectable audience was present. Frederick opened the meeting and, in the course of his speech, dealt very faithfully with the Free Church, which caused some hissing among the snakes belonging to that brood; but this was trifling, in comparison with the amount of applause bestowed. In following him, I adverted to the hissing, and invited to the platform, any one in the assembly, who was prepared to deny the charges which had been brought against the Free Church. Drs. Candlish, Cunningham, Chalmers, &c. But
There was silence, deep as death,
And the boldest held his breath. –4
and we thus ‘finished off’ the hisses for the remainder of the evening. Our meeting broke up at 10½ o’clock, with much enthusiasm, and it was voted that there should be an auxiliary anti-slavery league formed in Greenock. More will need to be done in that place, as I am told that it is sadly lacking in intellectual activity and moral life.
Murray, Douglass and myself staid over night at the Temperance hotel, and this morning I came up to Glasgow, via Bowling Bay.
from William Lloyd Garrison to Henry Clarke Wright, Glasgow, 23 September, reprinted in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3: No Union with Slave-Holders, edited by Walter M. Merrill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 426.
To the Editor ofThe Liberator
On Tuesday morning, we went to Bowling Bay, about ten miles down the river Clyde, to the residence of John Murray, – a man too well known on your side of the Atlantic to need any eulogy from me, – accompanied by that veteran in the cause of Christian reform, who came up the day previous to give us his benediction. His place of abode combines the picturesque, with the beautiful and sublime, in an eminent degree; but I have no time to indulge in drawing pictures, or to recapitulate the many pleasant objects that I saw. During the day, we climbed the lofty hills which rise somewhat precipitously behind his dwelling, and had a magnificent prospect opened to us. James N. Buffum, (of whose illness I regret to hear,) will remember the spot, and his memorable collision with one of Lord Blantyre‘s servants, as well as his correspondence with his lordship, in regard to it. The latter of Lord B., I am told, was not only very civil, but quite creditable to his character.5
In the evening, we went to Greenock, and held a very spirited meeting with special reference to the guilty position of the Free Church of Scotland – no one venturing to say one word in its defence.
from William Lloyd Garrison, Belfast, 3 October 1846; Liberator, 30 October 1846, reprinted in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3: No Union with Slave-Holders, edited by Walter M. Merrill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 433.
- William Lloyd Garrison to the Liberator, Belfast 3 October 1846, reprinted in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3: No Union with Slave-Holders, edited by Walter M. Merrill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 432.
- Ibid., p. 433; William Lloyd Garrison to Henry Clarke Wright, Glasgow 23 September 1846, reprinted in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3, p. 426.
- Thomas Campbell, ‘Battle of the Baltic’ in The Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell (Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1845), p. 217.
- Buffum referred to this incident in a speech in Dundee in January 1846.