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[210] friends in Boston to hear that, in regard to his project for establishing a paper here, to be called the North Star, . . . he never opened to me his lips on the subject, nor asked my advice in any particular whatever! Such conduct grieves me to the heart. His conduct [about the] paper has been impulsive, inconsiderate, and highly inconsistent with his decision in Boston. What will his English friends say of such a strange somerset? I am sorry that friend Quincy did not express himself more strongly against this project in the Liberator. It is a delicate matter, I know, but1 it must be met with firmness. I am sorry to add, that our friend Samuel Brooke is at the bottom of all this, and has influenced Douglass to take this extraordinary step, as he thinks the Bugle might as well be discontinued, or merged in Douglass's paper! Strange want of forecast and judgment. But no more now.2


1 Lib. 17.158.

2 Douglass had returned to America a free man, his English friends having negotiated his ransom (Lib. 17: 10). Mr. Garrison not only contributed while abroad to the amount raised for this purpose (Lib. 17.10), but justified Douglass in consenting to be freed by purchase—a point as to which the abolitionists were curiously divided, the scruple being shared by the editors of the Standard, Pennsylvania Freeman, and Bugle, and by many subscribers to the Liberator. Some Liberty Party editors were horrified. (See Lib. 17: 10,11,18, 26, 38,46,47.) ‘We would rather,’ said Mr. Garrison (Lib. 17: 38), ‘if this must be the alternative, that the most exorbitant pecuniary exactions of the slave tyrants should be complied with than that their victims should never be set free.’ ‘We deny,’ he said further, in reply to the position taken by the Philadelphia Female A. S. Society, ‘that such a purchase is necessarily “inconsistent with the principles set forth in the Declaration of Sentiments of the American A. S. Society.” Of the sixtyone signers of the Declaration, we doubt whether any one of them dreamed at that time of affirming, under his own signature, that it was an act wrong per se to procure the ransom of a slave; and we have very little doubt that, since that time, every one of them has again and again contributed towards purchasing either a parent or child, or husband or wife, out of slavery. The language of the Declaration was never intended to be construed as the Philadelphia Society understands it. It denies that a human being can justly be held as property; it also denies that the slaveholder can present any just claim to compensation for emancipating his slaves; but it neither affirms nor implies, nor was it designed to affirm or imply, that it would be a violation of principle to submit to an unjust demand on the part of the slaveholder, in order to secure the legal as well as natural freedom of a slave’ (Lib. 17: 46).

Douglass's English admirers did more than free him: they raised money to buy him a press, intending to send over one of English make. This enterprise was not regarded with favor by the leading abolitionists, who knew only too well the precarious support which a fifth anti-slavery paper edited by a colored man (Lib. 17: [102]) must have, and who appreciated to the full Douglass's unrivalled powers as a lecturer in the field (Lib. 17: [102], 114). With much reluctance he abandoned the project, publicly acquitting Mr. Garrison, whose disinterested friendship he could not question, and the Massachusetts Board of having unduly pressed him to his decision (Lib. 17: 118). Before he started on his Western tour with Mr. Garrison, it was announced that he would help edit Thomas Van Rensselaer's Ram's Horn in New York, and would write for the Standard (Lib. 17: 135). The British remittance was made in money (Lib. 17: 153), and Douglass's Eastern friends were surprised to read in the Cleveland True Democrat that he would set up his North Star in that city (Lib. 17: 158). A little later, Rochester was selected as the place of publication (Lib. 17: 178), and before the end of the year the paper was put forth (Lib. 17: 202). As had been anticipated (Ms. Aug. 29, 1847, Wendell Phillips to Elizabeth Pease), it nearly proved the ruin of its projector, but by extraordinary exertions it was kept alive—not, however, on the platform of Garrisonian abolitionism. The necessary support could only be secured by a change of principles in accordance with Mr. Douglass's immediate (political abolition) environment. (See Chap. VII. of Douglass's Life, ed. 1882, p. 264.) This defection was early foreseen by the clear-sighted Mrs. Chapman. In her report on the 14th National A. S. Bazaar (Lib. 18: 6, Jan. 14, 1848), she wished well to the North Star and its editor; and ‘may he never . . . be seduced by party or sect to purchase popularity at the expense of fidelity; nor to increase the subscription to his paper by diminishing its anti-slavery power; nor deem it possible to be respected and sustained at the same time by things so opposite in their nature and moving springs as Liberty Party and Liberty League, and that earliest, and latest, and purest anti-slavery which that Party and League scoff at as “ Garrisonism.” ’

To Mary Carpenter, one of the most zealous and useful friends of the North Star in England, Samuel May, jr., wrote on March 4, 1848: ‘I believe I told you that Douglass had determined to establish his paper without consulting Mr. Garrison about it, though they had been spending weeks together, in journeying and lecturing, in Pennsylvania and Ohio. It is only common justice to F. D. to inform you that he says this is a mistake—that, on the contrary, he did speak to Mr. G. about it just before he was taken ill at Cleveland. Mr. Garrison, however, has no recollection whatever of it’ (Ms.).

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