Documents: 1845

Frederick Douglass, a fugitive slave and leading abolitionist, visited Britain and Ireland in 1845-47 for a lecture tour. On the outward voyage he was invited by the captain to deliver a speech on slavery, but was shouted down by other passengers and a near riot ensued.

Frederick Douglass to William Lloyd Garrison
The fugitive slave gives an account of his experiences on the Cambria for the readers of the abolitionist journal Liberator.

Frederick Douglass – Speech in Dublin
The first public account of the voyage in Douglass’ speech at the Friends’ Meeting House, Eustace Street, two weeks after his arrival in Liverpool.

Frederick Douglass
A version of the incident from a pro-slavery American writing to the Boston Times.

Abolition Riot on the Atlantic
Another, this time from the New York Herald.

The Pro-Slavery Row on the Atlantic
Judson Hutchinson gives his account to the readers of the Boston Pioneer.

Frederick Douglass – Speech in Cork
Another account of the voyage given to a packed audience at the Imperial Hotel.

The Abolition Riot on the Atlantic
The New York Herald again.

Frederick Douglass to Thurlow Weed
Giving thanks for his correspondent’s defence of Douglass’ conduct on the Cambria, later published in the Liberator.

Frederick Douglass – Speech in Belfast
Tells his story once more, in his first lecture in Belfast, at the Independent Meetinghouse on Donegall Street.

Frederick Douglass – Speech in Glasgow
And again, this time his first lecture in Glasgow at the City Hall.

James Warburton – from Hochelega (1847)
An subsequent account by one of the passengers.

James E Alexander – from L’Acadie (1849)
And another.

Frederick Douglass – from My Bondage and My Freedom (1855)
Douglass recalls the incident in his second autobiography.

John Wallace Hutchinson – from The Story of the Hutchinsons(1896)
Recalls the voyage many years later in his history of the singing group he led.

Frederick Douglass to William Lloyd Garrison

DUBLIN, Sept. 1, 1845

Thanks to a kind Providence, I am now safe in old Ireland, in the beautiful city of Dublin, surrounded by the kind family, and seated at the table of our mutual friend, JAMES H. WEBB, brother of the well-known RICHARD D. WEBB. I landed at Liverpool on Thursday morning, 28th August, and took lodgings at the Union hotel, Clayton Squire, [sic] in company with friend Buffum and our warm-hearted singers, the Hutchinson family. Here we all continued until Saturday evening, the 30th instant, when friend Buffum and myself (with no little reluctance) separated from them, and took ship for this place, and on our arrival here, were kindly invited by James, in the temporary absence of Richard D. Webb and family, to make his house our home.

There are a number of things which I should like to write, aside from those immediately connected with our cause; but of this I must deny myself, – at least under present circumstances. Sentimental letter-writing must give way, when its claims are urged against facts necessary to the advancement of our cause, and the destruction of slavery. I know it will gladden your heart to hear, that from the moment we lost sight of the American shore, till we landed at Liverpool, our gallant steam-ship was the theatre of an almost constant discussion of the subject of slavery – commencing cool, but growing hotter every moment as it advanced. It was a great time for anti-slavery, and a hard time for slavery; – the one delighting in the sunshine of free discussion, and the other horror-stricken at its God-like approach. The discussion was general. If suppressed in the saloon, it broke out in the steerage; and if it ceased in the steerage, it was renewed in the saloon; and if suppressed in both, it broke out with redoubled energy, high upon the saloon deck, in the open, refreshing, free ocean air. I was happy. Every thing went on nobly. The truth was being told, and having its legitimate effect upon the hearts of those who heard it. At last, the evening previous to our arrival at Liverpool, the slaveholders, convinced that reason, morality, common honesty, humanity, and Christianity, were all against them, and that argument was no longer any means of defence, or at least but a poor means, abandoned their post in debate, and resorted to their old and natural mode of defending their morality by brute force.

Yes, they actually got up a MOB – a real American, republican, democratic, Christian mob, – and that, too, on the deck of a British steamer, and in sight of the beautiful high lands of Dungarvan! I declare, it is enough to make a slave ashamed of the country that enslaved him, to think of it. Without the slightest pretensions to patriotism, as the phrase goes, the conduct of the mobocratic Americans on board the Cambria almost made me ashamed to say I had run away from such a country. It was decidedly the most daring and disgraceful, as well as wicked exhibition of depravity, I have ever witnessed, North or South; and the actors in it showed themselves to be as hard in heart, as venomous in spirit, and as bloody in design, as the infuriated men who bathed their hands in the warm blood of the noble Lovejoy.

The facts connected with, and the circumstances leading to, this most disgraceful transaction, I will now give, with some minuteness, though I may border, at times, on the ludicrous.

In the first place, our passengers were made up of nearly all sorts of people, from different countries, of the most opposite modes of thinking on all subjects. We had nearly all sorts or parties in morals, religion, and politics, as well as trades and callings, and professions. The doctor and the lawyer, the soldier and the sailor, where there. The scheming Connecticut wooden clock-maker, the large, surly, New-York lion-tamer, the solemn Roman Catholic bishop, and the Orthodox Quaker were there. A minister of the Free Church of Scotland, and a minister of the Church of England – the established Christian and the wandering Jew, the Whig and the Democrat, the white and the black – were there. There was the dark-visaged Spaniard, and the light-visaged Englishman – the man from Montreal, and the man from Mexico. There were slaveholders from Cuba, and slaveholders from Georgia. We had anti-slavery singing and pro-slavery grumbling; and at the same time that Governor Hammond’s Letters were being read, my Narrative was being circulated.

In the midst of the debate going on, there sprang up quite a desire, on the part of a number on board, to have me lecture them on slavery. I was first requested to do so by one of the passengers, who had become quite interested. I, of course, declined, well knowing that that was a privilege which the captain alone had a right to give, and intimated as much to the friend who invited me. I told him I should not feel at liberty to lecture, unless the captain should personally invited me to speak. Things went on as usual till between five and six o’clock in the afternoon of Wednesday, when I received an invitation from the captain to deliver an address upon the saloon deck. I signified my willingness to do so, and he at once ordered the bell to be rung and the meeting cried. This was the signal for a general excitement. Some swore I should not speak, and others said I should. Bloody threats were being made against me, if I attempted it. At the hour appointed, I went upon the saloon deck, where I was expected to speak. There was much noise going on among the passengers, evidently intended to make it impossible for me to proceed. At length, our Hutchinson friends broke forth in one of their unrivalled songs, which like the angel of old, closed the lions’ mouths, so that, for a time, silence prevailed. The captain, taking advantage of this silence, now introduced me, and expressed the hope that the audience would hear me with attention. I then commenced speaking; and, after expressing my gratitude to a kind Providence that had brought us safely across the sea, I proceeded to portray the condition of my brethren in bonds. I had not uttered five words, when a Mr. Hazzard, from Connecticut, called out, in a loud voice, ‘That’s a lie!’ I went on, taking no notice of him, though he was murmuring nearly all the while, backed up by a man from New-Jersey. I continued till I said something which seemed to cut to the quick, when out bawled Hazzard, ‘That’s a lie!’ and appeared anxious to strike me. I then said to the audience that I would explain to them the reason of Hazzard’s conduct. The colored man, in our country, was treated as a being without rights. ‘That’s a lie!’ said Hazzard. I then told the audience that as almost every thing I said was pronounced lies, I would endeavor to substantiate them by reading a few extracts from slave laws. The slavocrats, finding they were now to be fully exposed, rushed up about me, with hands clenched, and swore I should not speak. They were ashamed to have American laws read before an English audience. Silence was restored by the interference of the captain, who took a noble stand in regard to my speaking. He said he had tried to please all of his passengers – and a part of them had expressed to him a desire to hear me lecture to them, and in obedience to their wishes he had invited me to speak; and those who did not wish to hear, might go to some other part of the ship. He then turned, and requested me to proceed. I again commenced, but was again interrupted – more violently than before. One slaveholder from Cuba shook his fist in my face, and said, ‘O, I wish I had you in Cuba!’ ‘Ah!’ said another, ‘I wish I had him in Savannah! We would use him up!’ Said another, ‘I will be one of a number to throw him overboard!’

We were now fully divided into two distinct parties – those in favor of me speaking, and those against me. A noble-spirited Irish gentleman assured the man who proposed to throw me overboard, that two could play at that game, and that, in the end, he might be thrown overboard himself. The clamor went on, waxing hotter and hotter, till it was quite impossible for me to proceed. I was stopped, but the cause went on. Anti-slavery was uppermost, and the mob was never of more service to the cause against which it was directed. The clamor went on long after I ceased speaking, and was only silenced by the captain, who told the mobocrats if they did not cease their clamor, he would have them put in irons; and he actually sent for the irons, and doubtless would have made use of them, had not the rioters become orderly.

Such is but a faint outline of an AMERICAN MOB ON BOARD OF A BRITISH STEAM PACKET.

Yours, to the end of the race,


Liberator, Vol XV, No XXXIX (26 September, 1845).

Frederick Douglass – Speech in Dublin: 9 September 1845

Mr. Douglass related a circumstance which occurred on board the Cambria, on which vessel he and his friend had taken a passage from America. Some slave-owners and a few advocates of their vile system were on board, but a greater number of the passengers were friends of liberty, and his presence among them excited a great interest; they were anxious, on hearing the history of his life, to hear him deliver a lecture on slavery. This, after a request from the captain, he consented to: but such is the impudent and overbearing nature of slave-holders, that these men actually threatened to throw him overboard for daring to speak in their presence. This desperate resolve was quietly met by a noble-hearted Irishman, a Mr. Gough, who told the reckless trafficer in human flesh and bones, that two could play at that work. So great was the violence exhibited by these bad men, that the captain had to call on his boatswain to bring up the shackles to put them in irons, to prevent a fatal exhibition of their wicked feelings. Here was a striking illustration of slave-holding sentiment. When men could act thus on the deck of a British ship, and within sight of the green hills of ireland, we may imagine what must be their brutality in Cuba and New Orleans.

Mr. Douglass was followed by Mr. Buffum, who exhibited a collar of iron with three long prongs, which was taken from off the neck of a young female slave, who ran away and escaped out of the house of bondage. Some manacles and a whip – whose lashes were twisted thongs of leather – almost as hard as iron; he held these up and rattled them before the audience, and said – Abolitionists in America are charged with infidelity; but they repudiated the slander, they loved Christianity, the Christianity of the blessed Saviour, but they disowned the Christianity which used such irons as these to manacle their brethren, and such whips as that to tear the flesh off their fellow men.

Dublin Evening Packet, 11 September, 1845.

Frederick Douglass

A pro-slavery American, in London, writes to the editor of the Boston Times, respecting the pro-slavery row on board the steamer Cambria as follows:

The steamer Cambria, on her last homeward trip, brought over a large number of passengers, and, as is usual, they represented the four quarters of the globe, Englishmen and Americans, however, forming the majority – and a very agreeable party they would have been, if a colored person named DOUGLASS, had not interfered to disturb the good feeling which at first prevailed on board the CAMBRIA. I have been informed that this Douglass was a steerage passenger, and yet he was allowed to visit the quarter deck and mingle with first class cabin passengers, to the great annoyance of some of them. He conversed in a very loud tone, every day, upon his favorite topic, slavery, and finally he so far prevailed over the good nature of the popular commander, Capt. Judkins, as to obtain his consent to announce that a lecture would be delivered by Douglass on the quarter deck. The steward rung the bell, which was the signal for the lecture to commence. Ladies and gentlemen were promenading, as usual, on the quarter deck, when they were much annoyed by the harangue of Douglass. He heaped the most outrageous abuse on the Americans, calling America the home for blackguards, and said that Americans occupied that home. His abuse became so violent, that two or three gentlemen took the subject up – a singular scene ensued – there was sharp shooting on both sides. Some low Scotchmen took the negro’s part, and told him to give it to the Yankees; while the ladies and several Englishmen turned their backs upon this ignorant calumniator and left the deck, fearful that hard words would end in hard blows. One Englishman, who had owned two hundred slaves in Jamaica, stood forward and stated that his whole property had been swept away by the laws of his country – that his estates were valueless since his slaves were liberated by the British government; but that he was strongly opposed to slavery and the slave trade; he could not, however, listen to such low abuse as Douglass had been permitted to utter in a mixed company, and he proceeded to talk down the negro. Other gentlemen expressed great disgust at Douglass’s conduct, and a row being soon likely to take place, Capt. Judkins was appealed to, and the negro was not permitted to vomit his foul stuff any longer on the quarter-deck. He was very annoying to most of the passengers during the whole voyage, and if there had been a Southerner on board, his carcass would no doubt have been food for sharks. It is certainly to be regretted that such fellows are ever permitted to annoy cabin passengers in this way, merely because two or three of their comrades wish to get up an excitement, and hear their leaders abuse America and Americans. Capt. Judkins should not have permitted this fellow to open his lips on the quarter deck.

Liberator, Vol XV, No XL (3 October 1845)

Abolition Riot on the Atlantic

We understand that Capt. Judkins, of the steamship Cambria, one of the Boston and Liverpool mail packets, on her last trip to England, had a negro named Douglass, among the passengers. When half way over the Atlantic, Captain J. brought Douglass forward on the quarter-deck, and called the passengers together in order to have an abolition meeting. This step, of course, lead to difficulty, and as the negro abused America, and the Americans, there arose a general uproar. The ladies were much alarmed, and had the Captain persisted in his abolition efforts, there would have been a serious riot in the middle of the ocean’s roar, and the negro tossed to the sharks. If the Cunard steamers are to take negro passengers and have riots in the middle of the Atlantic, very few whites will go in them. – New York Herald.

Liberator, Vol XV, No XL (3 October 1845)

The Pro-Slavery Row on the Atlantic

The following is Judson Hutchinson’s account in The Pioneer of the row on board of the Cambria:

The captain, with many other gentlemen, (and some ladies,) learning that Douglass was a good speaker, were excited to hear him. He was accordingly invited to speak on the promenade deck, and consented. Due notice was given, and lo! when the time came, the ‘American slave’ came forward, and after making a few introductory remarks, opened a small book, and began to read the code of slave laws in South Carolina. This was more than the Americans could bear. The disturbance was commenced by a Connecticut Yankee, a MEMBER OF THE BAPTIST CHURCH, and who meant, as he said, to carry out his Christian principles! He interrupted by disputing every sentence that was read. Frederick stopped, after a while, and asked the audience whether he should go on. Then came the ‘tug of war.’ This Yankee Baptist was backed up by the slave-mongers, while Douglass was sustained by the Englishmen. And all that the cool heads could do, was hardly sufficient to prevent a scene of bloodshed. The captain was very cool at first, but finding himself grossly insulted by a slaveholder from New-Orleans, (who made his boast that he ‘owned a hundred and thirty ‘niggers,’) he (the captain) ordered the boatswain to ‘call the watch,’ and have three pair of irons ready at a moment’s warning. He then addressed himself to the audience about as follows:

‘Gentlemen, – I was once the owner of two hundred slaves. If I had them now, I should not be obliged to follow the sea. But they were liberated, and it was right. Frederick Douglass may speak. I am captain of this ship.’

Frederick, however, saw fit not to go on, but retired to the steerage; for there was a terrible commotion among the passengers, some crying, ‘Throw the d__d nigger overboard,’ one saying, ‘I wish I had that nigger in Cuba, I’d show him what belongs to niggers,’ and the man from New-Orleans about ready to go into fits. And I think he would have done something of the kind, had not the command from the captain, ‘have the irons ready,’ cooled him off some. We thus had, what some of us had never had before, a fair ‘developement’ [sic] of Southern blood when stirred up by the sword of truth.

Liberator, Vol XV, No XLI (10 October 1845).

Frederick Douglass – Speech in Cork: 23 October 1845

I took passage at Boston, or rather my friend Mr Buffum, the gentleman who lived in the same town as me, went to Boston from Lynn to learn if I could have a cabin passage on board the vessel. He was answered that I could not, that it would give offence to the majority of the American passengers. Well, I was compelled to take a steerage passage, good enough for me. I suffered no inconvenience from the place – I kept myself in the forecastle cabin, and walked about on the forward deck. Walking about there from day to day my presence soon excited the interest of the persons on the quarter deck, and my character and situation were made known to several gentlemen of distinction on board, some of whom became interested in me.

In four or five days I was very well known to the passengers, and there was quite a curiosity to hear me speak on the subject of slavery – I did not feel at liberty to go on the quarter deck – the Captain at last invited me to address the passengers on slavery. I consented – commenced – but soon observed a determination on the part of some half a dozen to prevent my speaking, who I found were slave owners. I had not uttered more than a sentence before up started a man from Connecticut, and said, ‘that’s a lie.’ I proceeded without taking notice of him, then shaking his fist he said, again – that’s a lie. Some said I should not speak, others that I should – I wanted to inform the English, Scotch and Irish on board on Slavery – I told them blake were not considered human beings in America. Up started a slave-owner from Cuba – ‘Oh,’ said he, ‘I wish I had you in Cuba.’ Well, said I, ladies and gentlemen, since what I have said has been pronounced lies, I will read not what I have written but what the southern legislators themselves have written – I mean the law. I proceeded to read – this raised a general clamour, for they did not wish the laws exposed. They hated facts, they knew that the people of these countries who were on the deck would draw their own references from them.

Here a general hurry ensued – ‘Down with the nigger,’ said one – ‘he shan’t speak,’ said another. I sat with my arm folded, feeling no way anxious for my fate. I never saw a more barefaced attempt to put down the freedom of speech than upon this occasion. Now came the Captain – he was met by one of the other party, who put out his fist at him – the Captain knocked him down – instead of his bowie, the fallen man drew out his card crying ‘I’ll meet you at Liverpool.’ Well, said the Captain, ‘and I’ll meet you.’ The Captain restored order, and proceeded to speak. ‘I have down all I could from the commencement of the voyage to make the voyage agreeable to all. We have had a little of everything on board. We have had all sorts of discussions, religious, moral and political, we have had singing and dancing, everything that we could have, except an anti-slavery speech, and since there was a number of ladies and gentlemen interested in Mr. Douglass, I requested him to speak. Now, those who are not desirous to hear him, let them go to another part of the vessel. Gentlemen,’ he said, ‘you have behaved derogatory to the character of gentlemen and Christians. Mr Douglas,’ said he, ‘go on, pitch into them like bricks!’ (Laughter.) However, the excitement was such that I was not allowed to go on. The agitation, however, did not cease, for the question was discussed, to the moment we landed at Liverpool. The Captain threatened the disturbers with putting them in irons if they did not become quiet – these men disliked the irons – were quieted by the threat; yet this infamous class have put the irons on the black. (Mr douglass shoed the slave-irons to the meeting).

Cork Examiner, 27 October 1845, quoted in John W Blassingame (ed), The Frederick Douglass Papers. Series One: Speeches, Debates and Interviews. Volume 1: 1841-1846 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979), pp62-66.

The Abolition Riot on the Atlantic

My attention has recently been called to an article published in a Massachusetts paper, which contains an extract from a letter written by ‘one of the Hutchinson family,’ in relation to the disturbances on board the English steamer Cambria, on her return trip to England, in August last. The Hutchinsons were passengers, and any statement published by them must be recognised as correct until contradicted, and then, of course, a difference of opinion must exist in the minds of those who may read the two statements, one of which I propose to give, and which can be substantiated by a reference to the passengers on board at the time.

We left Boston on Saturday, the 16th of August, with 95 cabin passengers, including the ‘Hutchinson family.’ In the second cabin, or steerage, were about a dozen passengers, including a fugitive slave, by the name of ‘Frederick Douglass,’ and a celebrated Massachusetts abolitionist, by the name of ‘Buffam’ [sic]. I shall pass over various incidents which transpired on the voyage, which might, and which ought to, excite the strongest ndignation against the Commander, (Judkins,) believing the one will be sufficient to condemn him in the minds of every American. It is a custom (known by all who have ever crossed in these steamers,) for the Captain to give, the day before arrival into port, a champagne dinner; I say it is a custom known to all. I have often crossed, and as it has always been practised, I conclude it is as much of an established rule, as it is for the Captain to say grace at the table one moment, and curse some poor steward or sailor the next. The day before our arrival in Liverpool, the party was given, as usual. Among the number who enjoyed this party was Capt. Chas H E Judkins. When he came on deck, Mr ‘Jesse Hutchinson,’ by the request of this ‘Mr Buffam,’ his three brothers, perhaps half a dozen Englishmen, and probably the negro himself, asked the Captain if he would allow Mr Douglass to make some remarks on the subject of slavery, and occupy the promenade deck for that purpose. He, the Captain, immediately gave his asent, and ordered one of his stewards to ring the hand bell in different parts of the ship, and request all the passengers to retire to the deck. It was done, and when they had all met, probably not twenty of the hundred passengers knew for what purpose they had been called together. The Captain then came forward and said, ‘Some of the passengers had expressed a desire to hear Mr Douglass speak on the subject of slavery. Mr Douglass was a fugitive slave, and could speak from experience of this institution. He was a man, how, although black, could put many of us to the blush,’ &c &c, and closed his address by a dding, ‘Those who do not like or wish to hear him can go below.’ A portion of the American passengers retired to the saloon, myself among the number, to take into consideration the propriety of expressing our feelings in some proper way, that the public might know the respect, or want of respect, paid to Americans on board this steamer. While we were consulting we were disturbed by a noise on deck. We went up and found all in a state of great excitement. It origina[t]ed, I learned, as follows, and that these are the facts there can be no doubt. Douglass commenced by referring to philanthropic England, and the example she had shown us by freeing her slaves. – He then proposed to read some of the slave laws in the different States, and commenced with Georgia. He then proceeded but a few moments when a gentleman, a citizen of Connecticut, interrupted him, and said, ‘It was enough to be compelled to hear him as a mouth-piece of the Captain, insult Americans with his remarks; but if he had any state laws to read, to read them, and not attempt to palm off any of his abolition tracts as the laws of Georgia or any other State. He had lived many years in Georgia, and was well acquainted with her laws, and knew he was not reading any of them.’ The insulting reply was – ‘He was not aware before that there was any American blackguards on board, but’ – He had said enough, and there was not an American on board ship who would have submitted to a further insult from negro, captain, or crew. The captain, who was in the mess-room, came aft and interfered. He said, ‘he was commander of the Cambria – he was an Englishman – he had given Mr Douglass permission to speak, and if he was disposed, he might go on, and he would protect him; but if he (Douglass) would take his advice, he would leave the deck and his hearers, with contempt.’ He, of course, went. The Captain then said and repeated ‘that he did not care a damn for his passengers. Gentlemen, you have drank my health; you have drank success to my ship, for which I thanked you; but I wish you to understand that I don’t care a d__n for you.’ The Captain is unable to plead the excuse that he did not know there was any objection among the passengers to hear Douglass speak. Before he commenced, I went to him and reminded him of the probability of its ending in a disturbance, telling him the subject of slavery was one upon which Americans were very sensitive; and without questioning his privileges as commander, he ought to consult the feelings of his passengers, a good portion of whom were Americans. His reply to me was what I did not expect. I will refrain from mentioning it, believing enough has been said to show the feelings entertained by Captain Charles H E Judkins towards Americans. Your correspondent returned to America in the same steamer, and under the same person’s command. He more than once told some of his passengers ‘that he did not care a d__n for them. He was independent and above them all – they could be pleased or not; it mattered not a d__n to him.’

One hint with regard to the mission of Douglass and Buffam to England. A few days before I left Liverpool, I saw in a Dublin paper an advertisement announcing that Mr Douglass, a fugitive American slave, would lecture on the horrors of American slavery. Is there to be a movement by the abolitionists to secure, directly or indiretly, the assistance of Dan O’Connell and the Irish to further their hypocritical movements! It is too bad that Americans can be found who will attempt to villify [sic] our country as these wandering abolition lecturers do, both at home and abroad.


PS – If I recollect, Mr Hutchinson referred to a gentleman from New Orleans who took an active part in the disturbance. There was no passenger south of Philadelphia, which will account for the quiet manner in which it was passed over.

New York Herald (reprinted in National Anti-Slavery Standard, 18 December 1845)

Frederick Douglass to Thurlow Weed

DUBLIN, 1st December, 1845
Dear Sir:

Allow me to thank you for your noble and timely defence of my conduct on board the British steamship Cambria, during her passage, 27th Aug., from Boston, U.S. to Liverpool, England; and also to thank you for the friendly manner with which you regard and treat every movement tending to improve and elevate my long enslaved and deeply injured race.

In attempting to speak on board the Cambria, I acted in accordance with a sense of duty, and with no desire to wound or injure the feelings of any one on board. My object was to enlighten such of our passengers as wished to be enlightened, and to remove the objections to empancipation and false impressions concerning slavery, which I had heard urged during our passage.

No should I have done this, but that our popular and gentlemanly commander, as well as a most respectable number of our passengers gave me a pressing invitation to do so. It is clear that slavery in our country can only be abolished by creating a public opinion favorable to its abolition, and this can only be done by enlightening the public mind – by exposing the character of slavery and enforcing the great principles of Justice and Humanity against it. To do this with what ability I may possess, is plainly my duty. To shrink from doing so, on any fitting occasion,f rom a mere fear of giving offence to those implicated in the wickedness, would be to betray the sacred trust committed to me, and to act the part of a coward.

The question to be answered is: Had the passengers, though the Captain, a right to ask me to give them my views on slavery? To ask the question is to answer it. They had as much right to ask me my views on that subject, as those on any other subject. To deny that they had such a right, would be to deny that they had the right to exchange views at all. If they had the right to ask, I had the right to answer, and to answer so as to be understood by those who wished to hear. But then, it will be said, the subject of slavery is not open to discussion. Who say [sic] so? The very men who are continually speaking and writing in its favor. But who has a right to say what subject shall or shall not be discussed on board of a British steamer? Certainly not the slaveholders of South Carolina, nor their slaveholding abettors in New-York or elsewhere. If any one has such a right, the ship’s commander has. Now, all I did on the occasion in question, was in perfect agreement with the wishes of the Captain and a large number of our most respectable passengers.

The English papers have had much to say respecting the affair, and of course have in all cases taken a view favorable to myself. I say of course, not because I regard English journalists more disposed to pursue an honorable course in general than those of America; but because they are all committed against Negro slavery within their own dominions and elsewhere; and in this, whatever may be said of them in other respects, they hold a decided advantage over those of America.

The whole conduct of the Americans who took part in the mob on board the Cambria, was in keeping with the base and cowardly spirit that animated the mob in Lexington, Kentucky, which murderously undertook to extinguish the light of Cassius M. Clay’s noble paper, because his denunciations of slavery were offensive to their slaveholding ears. Not being able to defend their “peculiar institution” with words, they meanly – and I may add foolishly – resort to blows, vainly thinking thus to cover up their infamy. When will they learn that all such attempts only defeat the end which they are intended to promote, as it only calls attention to an institution which can passwithout condemnation, only as it passes without observation. The selfishness of the slaveholder and the horrible practices of slavery must ever excite in the true heart the deepest indignation and most absolute disgust.

“To be hated, it needs but to be seen.”

Again, accept my thanks, and believe me to be most gratefully,


Frederick Douglass

Liberator (16 January, 1846).

Frederick Douglass – Speech in Belfast (Independent Church, Donegall Street): 5 December 1845

In the vessel in which he came over from America, there were slaveholders, apologists for slavery and democratic monocrats. He took passage over in the Cambria, on the 16th of August, for Liverpool, and he found that a deep interest and curiosity were excited among the passengers, in consequence of his appearance on board. It was a little strange for a coloured man to take his passage for England – it was, indeed, strange in slave-holding eyes; and on board that steamer, prejudices common to American slaveholders were established. (Cries of ‘Shame.’) He was not allowed to take a cabin passage; but, however, he would say, that the Captain, and his whole ship’s company, treated him with the greatest kindness and cordiality. It was through the American agent, in Boston, that he was prevented from obtaining a cabin passage.

There was a deep interest excited among the cabin passengers about him, knowing that he had been a slave, and that he had already spoken on the subject of slavery. They wished him to speak to them on the matter; but he would not do so unless the Captain of the vessel desired him. He had with him a number of copies of his narrative; and, through these, the greater number of the passengers soon became well acquainted with him. The Captain’s leave was obtained for him to speak when they were in smooth water, near Ireland; and he asked him to deliver an address to the passengers on the subject of slavery.

Soon, an audience was convened. When he went forward to the saloon-deck, to address them, there was one party which was resolved that he should not speak. He found them cursing and swearing, and uttering the most horrid sentiments with reference to him; but the Captain, after a hymn had been sung, introduced him to the kindly notice of the passengers assembled. He proceeded to address them, but he had uttered hardly five words, when one of the slaveholders stepped up to him, shook his stock in his face, and said it was a lie. Three times, in succession, he pronounced what he said to be lies. He (Mr Douglass) then said to the audience that, since all he had said was pronounced to be lies, he would give them a few facts, in regard to slavery, as shadowed forth by their own Legislature. – At once the slaveholders knew he was about to expose them; for there is nothing they more dread or avoid than letting strangers know their laws with reference to the unfortunate creatures over whom they hold absolute sway and uncontrolled dominion. (Mr Douglass then read a list of laws from the slaveholders’ code of regulations, with regard to the slave, in which the most cruel and barbarous punishments, such as lashings on the back, the cropping of ears, and other revolting disfigurements, were awarded for the most venial crimes, and even frequently when no crime whatever had been committed.)

The reading of these before the audience caused the slaveholders, on the occasion, to writhe in utter agony – for those laws were not intended to be known to the Christian world, and they were crying out on every side, shaking their fists at him. One would say, ‘Oh! I wish I had you in Cuba!’ Another, ‘Oh! I wish I had you in New Orleans!’ And another, ‘I wish I had you in Savannah!’ (Loud laughter.) But nobody said that they wished they had him in Ireland. (Renewed laughter, and loud cheers.) One of them said, that he would be one of a number to throw him overboard. What a discreet man that was! (Laughter.) He would be one of an indefinite number to throw him overboard! and only one!

There happened to be on board an Irishman – a man of gigantic size – of the name of Gough; and Mr Gough, looking down upon this man with his glass in his eye, and coolly surveying the discreet gentleman who would be one of an indefinite number to throw him (Mr Douglass) overboard, hinted that two might possibly play at that game – (loud cheers) – and that two might possibly be thrown overboard. (Cheers.) That had a very good and salutary effect upon the young man.

Threats of the most bloody character were urged by the slaveholders against him (Mr Douglass); but the Captain said, that he must have a respectful hearing, for he was Captain of the ship, and he would see that order was maintained. (Cheers.) A little man, from New Orleans, said that he should not speak; but the Captain turned him round with a scarce perceptible motion of his hand, and the poor fellow had like to have fallen. The Captain, in sea phrase, could have broken every timber in his body. The little man got into a fearful rage, and he put his hand into his pocket, and felt about for something. He (Mr Douglass) thought that he was going to draw out his bowie knife, or, perhaps, his pistol. – But he pulled out his card, handed it to the Captain, and cried, ‘I will meet you – I will meet you – I will meet you in Liverpool!’ (In a sepulchral tone) – ‘Very well,’ said the Captain, ‘I’ll be there!’ (Loud cheers, and laughter.) – He heard but little more of him.

Some of them were so outrageous in their conduct, that the Captain at last said, he would put them in irons – the irons were brought forward; and the slaveholders, who were going to fight, and who, the moment before, had been so brave and courageous, sneaked away to different parts of the ship. (Cheers.) – John Bull had but to speak to them, and they were all quiet. (Loud cheers.)

Belfast Banner of Ulster and Belfast Northern Whig (9 December 1845), quoted in John W Blassingame (ed), The Frederick Douglass Papers. Series One: Speeches, Debates and Interviews. Volume 1: 1841-1846 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979), pp90-92.

By the publication of that narrative he became known, and lest they might find out his whereabouts, and in order to get rid of the American kidnappers, who would have hurled him back into interminable bondage, he ventured to tread upon the sacred soil of the ‘Emerald Isle.’ (Great applause.) But he was sorry to say his slavery had followed him over the Atlantic, and the customs of slavery had been practised even on the high seas. (Cries of ‘Shame.’) In the steamer which brought him over there were also slaveholders, real republican, democratic, mobocratic apologists of slavery. (Laughter.) He left Boston on the 16th August, in the Cambria, and he had not been on board more than two days when he was subjected to annoyance. It was not customary or common to see a colored man – he would not say gentle-man – a passenger, and he was accordingly regarded with some curiosity. What he had to complain of was, that slaveholding customs should be followed up and established even on board a British ship. He was not allowed to take a cabin passage on account of the colour of his skin and the crisp of his hair. (Cries of ‘Shame, shame.'[)] This was in a British vessel, though he was bound to say Captain Judkins and his crew treated him with the greatest kindness, and he had reason to believe that the conduct of which he complained, was owing to the interference of the American agent in Boston. When the passengers on board learned he was a slave, and coming to England to tell the wrongs of his brethren, they wished him to tell something about the matter on board; but he refused to do so until the captain gave his free consent. His narrative was in the meantime sent among them, and when they came in sight of Ireland and were got into smooth water he felt that he was bound to obey the call made upon him, and from his knowledge of slavery to come forward and say something in favor of his brethren who were in bondage. Accordingly, being invited by the captain, and the bell being rung round the ship to announce that he would deliver a lecture, upon the saloon deck, an audience was convened; but when he went on deck, he saw there was a party there that would not allow him to speak. He saw that they were slaveholders, and he heard them cursing and swearing. A hymn having been sung by an abolitionist family on board, he proceeded to deliver his lecture, but he had not uttered five words, when a slaveholder came forward, and shaking his fist in his face said, ‘That’s a lie.’ I proceeded (continued the lecturer) not withstanding this conduct, but was again interrupted in the same manner. I then said, as all I have told you has been pronounced a life, I will read your own laws on the relation that exists between a slave and his master. I then read the following:- ‘If more than seven slaves are found together in any road, without a white person, twenty lashes a piece; for visiting a plantation without a written pass, ten lashes; for letting loose a boat from where it is made fast, thirty-nine lashes for the first offence, and for the second, shall have cut from off his head one ear; for keeping or carrying a club, thirty-nine lashes; for having any article for sale without a ticket from his master, ten lashes; for travelling in any other than the most usual and accustomed roads, when going alone to any place, forty lashes; for being found in another person’s negro quarters, forty lashes; for hunting with dogs in the woods, thirty lashes; for being on horseback without the written permission of his master, twenty-five lashes; for riding or going abroad in the night, or riding horses in the day time, without leave, a slave may be whipped, cropped, or branded on the cheek with the letter R, or otherwise punished, not extending to life, or so as to render him unfit for labor.’ The laws referred to may be found by consulting 2d Brevard’s Digest, 228, 243, 246; Haywood’s Manual, 78, chap. 13, page 518, 529; 1. Virginia Revised Code, 722-31; Prince’s Digest, 454; 2. Missouri Laws, 741; Mississipi [sic] Revised Code, 371. Laws similar to these exist throughout the Southern Slave Code (Hear, hear.) This, as might be expected, caused the slaveholders to writhe in agony. They saw that these laws – their own laws – would do more harm to them than anything I could say. These laws were not intended for British eyes – they were not intended to be known but by slaves – nor to see the light, for to be abhorred, they need only be seen, – but they were intended only for the darkness of slavery. The slaveholders, as I have said, were in agony at hearing these things, and one cried out – ‘O, I wish I had you in Cuba;’ another, ‘O, I wish I had you in New Orleans;’ another, ‘I wish I had you in Savannah;’ but there were none of them wished they had me in Ireland. (Loud applause and laughter.) One of them said he would be ‘one of a number’ to throw me overboard – recollect, my friends, he said, he would be only ‘one’ of an indefinite number to throw me overboard. (Loud laughter and applause.) There was one gentleman on board – a Mr. Galt, of Dublin – a tall, clever man, who looked over all our heads like a large Giraffe, and he hearing the little slaveholder speak so largely turned towards him, and putting his glass to his eye, said, in tones very significant, ‘Perhaps two could play at that game.’ (Laughter.) This had a good effect upon the slave-holder, because the matter had never before been pressed upon his mind, till reminded of the possibility of it by the Irishman. (Renewed laughter) The storm grew higher, till at length the Captain interfered, and said I should be heard: that it was by his permission I spoke, and that he would protect me. At this a little man walked up to the Captain and said I should not. The Captain, however, put him aside, and a ring-bolt laying in the way, the little fellow almost fell over it. (Laughter.) When he came to himself again he put his hand into his pocket – I thought he was feeling for his bowie knife, but at length he pulled it out again, and handed the Captain his card – (laughter) – saying ‘I’ll meet you in Liverpool.’ He meant that he was to fight a duel. (Laughter.) The Captain replied quite coolly ‘Well, I’ll be there.’ (The lecturer uttering these words in a sepulchral tone of voice, occasioned considerable merriment among the audience.) The Captain’s reply cooled the slaveholder very considerably. The Captain then called the boatswain and ordered him to bring the irons. You see he was about to play the slaveholder over them in case they did not keep quiet, and being brought, they looked at them and sneaked off, and in a few minutes, if search had been made, they might have been found snugly stowed away in their berths. (Laughter.) This little circumstance has created great interest, and I have been considerably abused by the pro-slavery press in America for my alleged conduct on that occasion. Instead of the facts I have lain before you, they have stated that I intruded myself, and that the Captain was imposed upon. I say this, that if any report of this evening’s proceedings is taken, this reply to their charges may go as my answer. (Applause.)

Belfast News-Letter (9 December 1845).

Frederick Douglass – Speech in Glasgow: 15 January 1846

As an illustration of slavery, he would give them an account of his voyage across the Atlantic. He left America on the 16th of August, in the Cambria, commanded by Captain Judkins, and he would tell them something of his treatment on board of that vessel. In the first place, he wished to let them know, that a coloured man was not allowed to take a cabin passage. (Shame.) So far the corrupting influence of American customs and manners extended, that on the deck of a British steamer, under the British flag, the prejudice was so strong that he could not take a particular passage on board a ship for this country, merely because of the colour of his skin. No objection was urged to his moral character. He came to them recommended, probably, as no other other man came on the deck of that vessel, for, previous to his leaving the town of Lynn, a meeting of 1500 people, in a town of only 10,000 inhabitants, was convened to give him a character and a recommendation. (Applause.) He came certified as a man and a gentleman. For such he had ever tried to demean himself since his escape from bondage. Still he could not take a cabin passage, because a few pro-slavery, cadaverous, lantern-jawed Americans were on board. (Cheers and laughter.) There were a few pale-faced Americans on board, whose olfactory nerves would have been most offended if he had come anywhere in the neighbourhood of them. He was ready to take a cabin passage, and to pay for it, and to behave himself as other men did, but he was refused on the ground that he was a coloured man. (Shame.) Yes, it was a shame for England so far to lower its dignity as to adopt the prejudices of the slaveholders on board any of her vessels, and to violate the British cross, merely to please the slaveholding, woman-stripping, cradle-plundering Americans. Well, when he got on board he took his position before the mast, and spent his days in the forecastle, feeling quite happy, and what gave him the greatest consolation was, that every revolution of the ponderous wheels of their noble ship bore him farther from the land of those proscriptions which he had then escaped.

During the passage discussions were excited on the question of slavery. An excellent friend of his, Mr Buffum, was on board at the time, and having a white skin, he felt himself at liberty to go anywhere. It was quite an endorsement [sic], a white skin in America. Those who had white skins might go anywhere; they might even go to Texas, that land of angelic personages. (Cheers and laughter.) As he had said, Mr Buffum could go anywhere in the ship, but he did not leave him. (Great applause). He went aft, but he took him with him in his heart. He (Mr B) talked with the officers and with the passengers on the question. He raised discussions on the subject of slavery. The discussions by-and-by became very exciting. Indeed, there was a difficulty of talking with his friend on such a subject without getting excited, for he never went the whole hog. (Loud applause.)

Having a number of copies of his narrative on hand he put them in circulation amongst the passengers, who became quite interested in him, and he had occasionally visitors from the quarter-deck. Those who came to see him were the most intelligent amongst the passengers; their coming proving them to be that; for it was evident that they came to talk on the question of slavery. (Applause.) At length quite a desire sprung up to hear him speak on the subject of slavery. They learned that he had been a slave, and they wanted to have a sprig of the article. He steadily refused, and he wished them to make this; because he was misrepresented in America with regard to this point. There he was represented to have put himself forward to speak, but he did not move a single step until he was invited by the Captain to do so. In compliance with his invitation he went upon the quarter-deck.

When they came in sight of the beautiful hills of Dungarvan, and got into smooth water, he complied with the request made by the passengers, and communicated to him through the Captain. He went upon the saloon deck, and was introduced by the Captain. He commenced to speak to them on the subject of slavery – and he might mention the Captain had taken an active part in assembling the passengers. The bell was rung, and the meeting was cried, and he proceeded to lecture. A number of Americans present seemed determined not to let him speak. (Hear, hear.) These lovers of law and order tried, by the shuffling of their feet, and other noises to prevent him from speaking. But they happened to have on board a company of American singers – the Hutchinson Family – who struck up one of their Anti-slavery songs, which had the effect of stilling the tumult. At the close of the song, he was again introduced to the audience, but he had not spoken two sentences before he was interrupted by one of the American, democratic, Christian, liberty-loving gentlemen, who called out, ‘It’s a lie.’ How fine, how exceedingly gentlemanly, were these American republicans! (Cheers.) He went on, taking no notice of this interruption. But he had only spoken a few other words, when ‘It’s a lie,’ was again bawled out by a Mr Hazard.

He (Mr D) went on to say, that since it was all a lie he had said about slavery and American slaveholders, he would bring before them the slaveholders themselves to testify through their judges, their courts of law, their representatives and legislators, the truth of his statements. He meant to read the law of the United States on the subject of slavery. He never saw creatures so chop-fallen in his life; they might have been beaten by a straw. On his making this annoucement a general shuffling of feet began. He proceeded, however, to read some of their most cruel slave laws – laws which, if tried by another standard, went by the board. While reading, one man rushed up to him, and wished he had him in Cuba. Up came another from Louisiana, and wished he had him in New Orleans. A third started up, and wished he had him in Charleston; but none of them had the folly to wish to have him in old Glasgow.

One man was perfectly amusing. He was a very little man, and he ran about the deck, proposing to be one of a number to throw him over board. (Laughter.) How prudent, how cautious, how calculating, to propose to be one of an indefinite number to pitch me into the sea! (Cheers.) A good man, an Irishman of the name of Gough – a calm, dignified, kind of character – who looked down upon him, just as much as he looked down upon the creature who proposed to throw him overboard, stepped up to the little man, and said, ‘Have you never thought, my friend, that two can play at that game?’ (Cheers and laughter.) He slunk away at that suggestion, and he heard no more of him.

Another man was quite as amusing. His name was Phillippi, and he wanted to prevent him from speaking. Why, he could have taken the creature and thrown him overboard. Of course, he would not have resorted to violence, except they had put hands upon him, and, indeed, he thought that although they had put hands upon him, that he would have submitted. The captain, who acted under these circumstances like a gentleman, having told this little man to ‘shut up,’ came forward and demanded audience, and addressed those rowdy gentlemen in something like the following terms:- ‘Gentlemen,’ he said, ‘since I left the wharf at Boston, I have done all in my power to make the voyage a pleasant one. We have had every kind of amusement; we have had conversations of various kinds singing, and discussions. I have tried to manage so as to please all my passengers. Many of them came to me and asked me to give Mr Douglass an opportunity to speak, as they were anxious to hear him. I, in obedience to their request, asked him to speak. I introduced him to you. The meeting was summoned here, as the passengers wishes to listen to Mr Douglass; and whoever does not want to hear him can go to some other part of the ship, and let those who wish to hear remain. (Applause.) You have acted derogatory to the character of men, of gentlemen, and of Christians, and I demand audience. Mr Douglass, you are at liberty to speak, and I will protect you in your right to speak. i am captain of this ship; you are at liberty to speak, and no one shall prevent you.’ (Great applause.)

A little man from Philadelphia here stepped up and said he (Mr D) should not speak. The captain put him aside, when he put his hand under his coat, and he looked for him drawing out a dagger, but it was a card with a request to meet the captain in Liverpool. ‘Very well,’ replied the captain, ‘I wil be there.’ (Cheers and laughter.) However, these gentlemen continued to show up their democratic injustice till the captain brought them to silence, by first threatening and then ordering the boatswain to produce the necesary implements to put them into irons. That was a new thing under the dun to put white slaveholders into irons! (Cheers.) They had been accustomed to put irons upon black people, but the idea of putting irons upon democratic republicans they could not understand; but seeing the captain was in earnest the creatures began to drop down, and in about ten minutes they had all disappeared. (Loud and continued cheering.)

Glasgow Argus (22 January 1846), quoted in John W Blassingame (ed), The Frederick Douglass Papers. Series One: Speeches, Debates and Interviews. Volume 1: 1841-1846 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979), pp139-42.

James Warburton – from Hochelega, or England in the New World (1847)

It was announced to us that the next morning we should be at Liverpool. On the concluding day of the voyage it is usual to prolong the dinner hour beyond the ordinary time; a quantity of wine is put upon the table, and the gifted in song and eloquence edify the company by the exercise of their powers. The sea, by this time, has lost its horrors to even the most tender susceptibilities; every one is in high good-humour and excitement at the prospect of a speedy release from their confinement, and it is generally made the occasion of great rejoicing. Very flattering things are said of the qualities of the ship and the skill and virtues of the captain, of the vast advantages of such speedy communication between the two greatest nations in the world – which is always a highly popular observation. Then the captain ‘is quate at a loss for words to express the deep sense he entertains of the honour conferred on himself and his ship by the gentleman who has just now so eloquently spoken.’ As soon as these agreeable subjects are exhausted, the passengers find it agreeable to walk on the deck a little and cool their heads, heated with champagne and eloquence.

At this unfortunate time, on the occasion I speak of, the negro abolition preacher made his appearance on the quarter-deck and commenced a lecture on the evils of slavery, and the stain fixed by it on the character of the United States, using no measured terms of condemnation of the free and enlightened community. A large circle of his supporters gathered round him to hear his speech, those who differed from him also listened with great patience for some time, when I must say, he became very abusive to Americans in general, trusting to being countenanced by a majority of the audience. A New Orleans man, the master of a ship in the China trade adn who had been, during the greater part of the voyage, and was more particularly on this occasion, very much intoxicated, poked himself into the circle, walked up to the speaker with his hands in his pockets and a ‘quid’ of tobacco in his mouth, looked at him steadily for a minute, and then said, ‘I guess you’re a liar.’ The negro replied with something equlaly complimentary, and a loud altercation ensued between them. Two of the gentlemen in the circle stood forth at the same time to restore order, both beginning very mildly, but unfortunately suggesting different means of accomplishing the desired object.

After a few words had passed between them, they became a little heated, matters quickly grew worse, and in two minutes they were applying terms to each other quite as equivocal as those used by the Chinaman and Negro. Mutual friends interfered, who immediately got up quarrels on their own account; and, in a shorter time than I have taken to describe it, the whole party – who had but half an hour before been drinking mutual good healths, and making all sorts of complimentary speeches, were scattered into a dozen stormy groups on the deck. IN the centre of each, stood two or three enraged disputants, with their fists almost in each other’s faces; while threats and curses were poured forth in all directions – ‘Im an Englishman, I won’t stand this.’ ‘I’m an American, I won’t stand that!’ – the English siding with the Negro, the Americans with the Chinaman. In the mean time, this demon of discored had vanished, and we saw or heard no more of him or his lectures. For at least an hour the dire tumult lasted; luckily, the better class of the passengers of both countries, and the military officers on board, kept clear of the squabble, and finally their good offices lulled the tempest, and separated the contending parties.

All the rest of the night was however passed in explanations and excitement. One very short man, of an immense rotundity of person, kept vehemently ‘guessing’ that, if it had not been for some untimely interference of two of his friends, he would certainly have knocked down a broad-shouldered, good-humoured Englishman, about six feet high, who was standing by with his hands in his pockets,chuckling with the most unfeigned delight.

We landed early the next morning, and all the men of angry passions were scattered about in an hour, perhaps never to meet again. This was altogether a disgraceful affair; the quarter-deck of a public packet-ship should never have been used for the purpose of attacking the institutions of a country to which so many of the pasengers belonged, no matter what opinion, as to these institutions of a country to which so many of the passengers belonged, no matter what opinion, as to these institutions, people may entertain. I am convinced that, but for the certainty of being immediately amenable to English law, it would have been the occasion of great violence, if not loss of life. The affair was a good deal remarked upon in the American papers subsequently, and, as far as it went, had an injurious and exasperating effect. It never, to my knowledge, was noticed by the English press. I understand that strict orders have been issued by the steam-packet company to prevent the possible recurrence of such an affair.

James Warburton, Hochelega, or England in the New World(London: Henry Colburn, 1847), Vol II, pp358-61.


We had ninety-five passengers in the Cambria; among others were the Bishops of Oregon and Massachusetts, Mr Widder, the Chief-Commissioner of the Canada Land Company, and his family, Mr Ruggles of New York and his family, Dr Robbins of Boston, CAptain Warburton, R A, the author of that very excellent work on the New World, Hochelaga, Captains Chester, 23rd, and R W F Gough, 33rd; Lietueants Bowie, 52nd, L I maxwell, and Stewart, 93rd Highlanders; Ensign Selby, 24th rEgiment, M de Blaquieè &c. I shared a cabin with an intellient gentleman of Philadelphia, Dr Scott. The Hutchinson family of New England singers were on board; also Mr Frederick Douglas, a man of colour, who has since created a considerable sensation by his lectures on Slavery; and General Welsh, proprietor of menageries, director of circuses, &c.

We had a most pleasant passage: there was fine weather, our voyage was diversified with the sight of several ships, and of magnificent icebergs, – some like huge sphinxes resting on the blue sea, and others resembling enormous cathedrals, with belfry towers attached; we had agreeable conversation and singing every evening. After supper one night, an American passenger made this characteristic speech:-

‘Well, I swear I’m as happy as a clam! Gentlemen, on the present glorious occasion, sailing as we are on the boundless ocean, in a most splendid vessel, commanded by a most gallant Captain, and with the noble representatives of people from all parts of the world on board: I expect I am perfectly content and happy. It is true I was very sick; but I think I will do now, and no mistake; and what with good fellowship and good suppers, I guess we will get on famously. Gentlemen, I am so full, I cannot say any more.’

We touched at Halifax; the whole voyage occupied from the 16th to the end of August, and we were only six days out of sight of land – Cape Race to Cape Clear. Till the day before our arrival at Liverpool, the passengers were ‘a band of brothers,’ when at once the apple of discord was thrown among them, by two or three wishing to hear Mr Douglas, the late slave, speak; he accordingly began an oration on deck, describing slavery in the Southern States. There being many planters on board, they naturally were greatly annoyed, and a serious disturbance commenced, which was with difficulty quelled.

The planters had stood emancipation songs such as this:

There is a country far away,
Friend Hopper says ’tis Canaday,
And if we reach Victoria’s shore,
He tells us we are slaves no more.
Then haste all bondsmen let us go,
And leave this christian country, oh!
Haste to the land of the British Queen,
Where whips for negroes ne’er are seen.

But when the laws regarding slaves, (which by the way were smiliar to those formerly in force in our own West Indian islands), were cast in their teeth by a runaway slave, and on board a vessel too, where they did not pay for or expect to receive such treatment; they were greatly excited; fortunatley, however, there was no boodshed, though it looked very like it at one time.

James E Alexander, L’Acadie; or, Seven Years’ Exploration in British America (London: Henry Colburn, 1849), Vol II, pp259-62.

Frederick Douglass – from My Bondage and My Freedom (1855)

A rude, uncultivated fugitive slave was driven, by stern necessity, to that country to which young American gentlemen go to increase their stock of knowledge, to seek pleasure, to have their rough, democratic manners softened by contact with English aristocratic refinement.

On applying for a passage to England, on board the Cambria, of the Cunard line, my friend, James N Buffum, of Lynn, Massachusetts, was informed that I could not be received on board as a cabin passenger. American prejudice against color triumphed over British liberality and civilization, and erected a color test and condition for crossing the sea in the cabin of a British vessel. The insult was keenly felt by my white friends, but to me, it was common, expected, and therefore, a thing of no great consequence, whether I went in the cabin or in the steerage. Moreover, I felt that if I could not go into the first cabin, first cabin passengers could come into the second cabin, and the result justified my anticipations to the fullest extent.

Indeed, I soon found myself an object of more general interest than I wished to be; and so far from being degraded by being placed in the second cabin, that part of the ship became the scene of as much pleasure and refinement, during the voyage, as the cabin itself. The Hutchinson Family, celebrated vocalists – fellow-passengers – often came to my rude forecastle deck, and sung their sweetest songs, enlivening the place with eloquent music, as well as spirited conversation, during the voyage. In two days after leaving Boston, one part of the ship was about as free to me as another. My fellow-passengers not only visited me, but invited me to visit them, on the saloon deck. My visits there, however, were but seldom. I preferred to live within my privileges, and keep upon my own premises. I found this quite as much in accordance with good policy, as with my own feelings.

The effect was, that with the majority of the passengers, all color distinctions were flung to the winds, and I found myself treated with every mark of respect, from the beginning to the end of the voyage, except in a single instance; and in that, I came near being mobbed, for complying with an invitation given me by the passengers, and the captain of the Cambria, to deliver a lecture on slavery. Our New Orleans and Georgia passengers were pleased to regard my lecture as an insult offered to them, and swore I should not speak. They went so far as to threaten to throw me overboard, and but for the firmness of Captain Judkins, probably would have (under the inspiration of slavery and brandy) attempted to put their threats into execution.

I have no space to describe this scene, although its tragic and comic peculiarities are well worth describing. An end was put to the melee, by the captain’s calling the ship’s company to put the salt water mobocrats in irons. At this determined order, the gentlemen of the lash scampered, and for the rest of the voyage conducted themselves very decorously.

Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855)

John Wallace Hutchinson – from The Story of the Hutchinsons (1896)

When we became accustomed to our confined quarters, the motion of the steamer and the surroundings, we began to feel quite at home. We early formed the acquaintance of Captain Judkins, whom we found to be a bluff old sterling Englishman, full of music and good cheer. We passed much of our time in his society on deck, and many a night we sat and sang together and told stories till midnight.

We of course suffered from sea-sickness a part of the | time, and were confined to our staterooms, but soon got regulated so that we could enjoy the bountiful table which was spread for us.

Life was quite monotonous; but between eating, sleeping, reading and singing, we managed to pass the time very pleasantly, often gathering on deck with some of our English and American friends, who seemed very glad to linger with us to enjoy our harmonies. We saw some big waves, some big icebergs, and some big fish, while on board we had some big slave-holders from Cuba, who somewhat marred the pleasure of the voyage. One of them, at the table one day, accidentally spilled some wine on the dress of my sister; his profuse and distressing apologies, coming from such besotted lips, were much worse than the wine stains on the silk skirt.

Frederick Douglass, for the crime of color, was forced to take passage in the steerage, where Mr Buffum accompanied him. It was only by sufferance that Douglass was allowed to come on the promenade deck, and then had no freedom except when with a friend. We frequently invited him to walk with us, when he freely expressed to us his feelings and sentiments on the subject of slavery, and month other things said he would rather trust his liberties with the English government than with the American rabble.

The curious of both nationalities were interested in him, and after reading his little “Narrative”, which we took pains to circulate among the passengers, the desire to hear him speak was expressed. We obtained permission from the captain to give him an audience on the forward deck. Most of the foreigners and some of the Americans were assembled; and our colored brother began at first standing under the awning, but I persuaded | him to come into the open, by the main-mast, where he read from a pamphlet containing the statutes of South Carolina on the subject of slavery. We soon saw that the reading was not relished by some of the auditors, as the sequel proved. The cluster of slave-holders and slave-drivers were preparing to resent what they claimed was an insult to them. They soon so disturbed the speaker that he was forced to suspend, and with a sentence half-finished, he retreated under the awning and thence down the stairs to the steerage, his only hiding place, where he was sheltered from the wrath of those blood-thirsty Americans whose “chivalry” was so much shocked. Then followed threats of killing, and throwing the “nigger” overboard, and for a few minutes anarchy ruled and the war spirit was rampant.

The captain was sent for; he came suddenly from his quarters, where he had been enjoying a siesta after a luxurious banquet tendered him by his friends. He took in the situation at a glance, and when one of the fire-eaters approached him, threatening insult because he had allowed a “nigger” to speak, the old British lion awoke in him, and asserting his authority as captain, he shouting lustily for the bos’n to bring the irons. This at once quelled the disturbance, and quiet was restored.

The captain then turning to us, said, “I was once the owner of two hundred slaves, but the government of Great Britain liberated them, and I am glad of it.” We struck up “God Save the Queen” and followed by singing “Yankee Doodle.” “America,” and “A Life on the Ocean Wave.”

We made some very pleasant acquaintances on the voyage, but were more strongly than every prejudiced against the institution of slavery from this exhibition | made on board ship by the scions of Southern aristocracy, as also by the supercilious airs they put on.

John Wallace Hutchinson, The Story of the Hutchinsons [1896](New York: Da Capo Press, 1977), Vol I, pp144-147.

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