Frederick Douglass Counsels a Friend
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“…most heartily do I rejoice in your escape from the clutches of your destroyer …”
Frederick Douglass warmly acknowledges the testimony and “programme” of a friend who most likely had been an alcoholic. FREDERICK DOUGLASS.
Autograph Letter Signed to [?] McWilliams. Rochester, N.Y., September 26, 1869. 1 p.
Rochester Sept 26, 1869
I thank you for your letter and for the Programme it contained, most heartily do I rejoice in your escape from the clutches of your destroyer, and in the prospect of your future usefulness and happiness. I was truly and deeply affected by meeting you once more in Rochester. I seemed almost like meeting one who had risen from the dead. All the support which the earnest and best wishes of a friend can supply will be yours. Life is a constant battle between good [and] evil dispositions. He that overcometh shall inherit all things.
In this letter, Douglass reassures a friend who appears to have struggled through alcoholism. Douglass occasionally lectured in support of the temperance movement. In one speech in Britain in 1846, he used his own experiences as a slave to illustrate the perils of alcohol. “On Saturday evening, it is the custom of the slaveholder to give his slaves drink, and why? Because if they had time to think, if left to reflection on the Sabbath day, they might devise means by which to obtain their liberty.”
Frederick Douglass (1817[?]-1895) was an orator, journalist, abolitionist, and distinguished African-American leader. Born a slave in Tuckahoe, Maryland, named Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, he assumed the name Douglass after his escape from slavery in 1838. In 1841, Douglass successfully addressed a Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society convention and was employed as its agent. He wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in 1845 to document his experiences and sufferings, and to silence those who contended that a man of his abilities could not have been a slave. Douglass soon became a noted anti-slavery orator and supporter of women’s rights, lecturing in both the United States and England. During the Civil War, he was instrumental in pushing anti-slavery measures, in advocating for African-American combat units, and in raising troops. Douglass was the first African-American to serve in important federal posts, including the positions of assistant secretary of the Santo Domingo Commission, Marshal of the District of Columbia, Recorder of Deeds for Washington D.C., and Minister to Haiti.
“Frederick Douglass, Temperance, and Anti-Slavery.”
http://yale.edu/glc/archive/1118.htm. Accessed Jan. 3, 2008.