Frederick Douglass Prepares Address on the Annexation of Santo Domingo
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“I prefer to deliver my lecture on Santo Domingo in Norton …”
Douglass, still a sought-after speaker during the Reconstruction years, prepares to deliver a lecture on the possible acquisition of the island of Santo Domingo. FREDERICK DOUGLASS.
Autograph Letter Signed to M.A. Briggs. Washington, November 3, 1871. 1 p.
Washington D.C. Nov. 3d 1871
I prefer to deliver my lecture on Santo Domingo in Norton. It will meet the requirements contained in your letter as well as anything I shall be able to say.
It is now more than thirty years since I lectured in Norton and I can probably repeat myself without being called to account by my juvenile audience. Hoping that you will secure a larger attendance than you seem to hope. I am respectfully yours.
Douglass was preparing to give a lecture, very likely at Wheaton College, a female seminary founded in 1834 in Norton, Massachusetts. In January, 1871, President Ulysses Grant had appointed Douglass as Assistant Secretary to the Commission of Inquiry into the possible annexation of the island of Santo Domingo. Douglass toured Santo Domingo from January 18 through March 26, 1871, and defended the idea of annexation – he believed that inclusion within the United States would uplift the benighted peoples of the island. Many prominent Republicans, including Charles Sumner, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, attacked the idea and its imperialist underpinnings, and abandoned Grant and the Republicans in the 1872 elections over this issue and over corruption scandals such as Crédit Mobilier. Sumner defeated the annexation scheme in the Senate, but Grant won reelection in 1872 over Horace Greeley.
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. He attended the Seneca Falls Convention on women’s rights and signed its Declaration of Sentiments. Douglass edited his own newspaper, The North Star, for several years. During the Civil War, he was instrumental in pushing anti-slavery measures, in advocating for African-American combat units, and in raising troops. He fought for passage of the Thirteenth (Abolition), Fourteenth (Equal Protection) and Fifteenth (Voting Rights) Amendments, through testimony to Congress, reports to the President and regular appearances on the lecture circuit. 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.
Overall fine, slight wear on edges.