Report of the Speeches of Messrs. Frederick Douglass, Henry Clarke Wright & James Buffum

Report of the Speeches of Messrs. Frederick Douglass, Henry Clarke Wright & James Buffum

Report of the Speeches of Messrs. Frederick Douglass, Henry Clarke Wright & James Buffum

Report of the Speeches of Messrs. Frederick Douglass, Henry Clarke Wright & James Buffum -- An extremely rare 32 page report of an anti-slavery soiree held in Dundee, Scotland on March 10th, 1846 by the reporter of the Dundee Courier -- Printed by D. Hill, at the Courier Office. (A rare documents dealer in Scotland said that this was the only such document he had seen in over 30 years of business.) Rev. George Gilfillan (see his image below), the pastor, had invited Douglass to speak. Over 1200 people attended to listen to the speeches past midnight. Here's the first paragraph of the booklet:
"On the evening of Tuesday the 10th March, a soiree in honor of Messrs Douglass, Wright and Buffum, the advocates of the abolition of American Slavery, was held in George's Chapel (now named Gilfillan Memorial Church). The anxiety to obtain tickets for this demonstration was so great that the number issued were all disposed of on the previous day., and consequently the chapel was filled in every part at an early hour, upwards of 1200 being present..."


As a runaway slave, Douglass had written his "Narrative..." book. He had previously resisted the temptation to disclose much of his slave identity, including his master's name or his place of birth, for fear of recapture. But he now decided to defend himself against these charges and to compose a narrative of his experiences that would conclusively prove the authenticity of his identity and validate his status as a representative slave. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845) became an instant success, selling 4,500 copies between the months of May and September, and 30,000 copies in both Britain and America by 1850. Praised by reviewers all over the country — one in the Lynn Pioneer declared, "It is the most thrilling work which the American press ever issued—and the most important"—the story of Douglass's early life became our country's most important slave narrative, and a seminal work of 19th century American literature. Its popularity, however, was something of a mixed blessing for Douglass; with his identity fully revealed, the risk of recapture increased dramatically.


 His old master, smarting over his treatment in the Narrative, would have liked nothing better than to bring that ungrateful slave back home. Concerned for his safety, Douglass's friends urged him to pursue a course he had been considering, and that had become even more attractive after the strain of composing the Narrative: to travel overseas, and commence an antislavery tour of England. Douglass was reluctant to leave his family—he was now the proud father of four children—but the threat of recapture was overpowering. Because of the Fugitive Slave laws, Frederick knew that he needed to leave America. On August 16, 1845, Douglass left from Boston with an antislavery traveling companion, James Buffum, a wealthy, if slightly insipid, Garrisonian from Lynn. They boarded the Cambria and sailed for Liverpool.


  Never one to shy away from the good fight, Douglass did not go quietly across the waters. Indeed, controversy followed his transatlantic voyage from its very beginning. Accompanied by Buffum, Douglass attempted to purchase a cabin passage, but was told that since "it would give offense to the majority of the American passengers," he would have to accept a berth in the steerage compartment. Douglass complied; perhaps he suspected that there would be ample opportunity for agitation in the immediate future. Indeed, once on board, Douglass quickly ruffled some pro-slavery feathers by distributing copies of his Narrative, the sale of which was his principal means of financing his trip, as well as by venturing into the first-class sections to dine with sympathetic fellow passengers.


If the ship simmered, it did not come to a boil till the night of the 27th. As Douglass began to speak on deck, the several hecklers around him became more violent, forming what Douglass called "a real American, republican, democratic, Christian mob." And when Douglass countered their accusations of abolitionist fabrications by reading some of the more severe state slave laws, the pro-slavery members of the crowd became even more incensed. As one rather partisan witness explained, the passengers refused to let Douglass "vomit his foul stuff any longer on the quarter deck." Several suggested throwing Douglass overboard, others rushed to his defense, and the two sides fought it out on deck. The brawl was temporarily broken up when the captain threatened to put the pro-slavery men in chains if they continued to disrupt Douglass (a gesture that Douglass, all too familiar with chains and possessing a keen sense of irony, readily appreciated). However, the fighting continued, and the captain eventually suggested that for safety's sake, Douglass retire to his cabin. The incident, heavily publicized in the British and Irish press, served Douglass as instant publicity material, and made him into a sort of celebrity before he even set foot on British soil.


 Frederick Douglass arrived in Liverpool on the Cambria on 28 August 1845 and departed from Liverpool on the same ship in April 1847. In over 18 months he traveled extensively in Britain and Ireland, giving lectures in dozens of cities and towns. He was in Scotland for most of the first half of 1846, returning again in July, September and October the same year. Home to some of the more radical anti-slavery sentiment in Britain, Scotland gave Douglass a warm welcome. The Edinburgh and Glasgow Emancipation Societies had been formed in 1833 and - in the wake of the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies - they called for the abolition of slavery in other parts of the world, especially the United States. Douglass received the money on this trip from Anna Richardson in UK to purchase his freedom from his former master, Thomas Auld. When the American abolitionist movement began to split in the late 1830s, the Scottish Societies tended to take the side of William Lloyd Garrison, whose uncompromising followers stood aloof from party politics and held radical views on women's rights. Douglass spoke at public meetings across the country. Among the venues we know he appeared at were: Glasgow City Hall; Abbey Church, Arbroath; George's Chapel, Dundee; Abbey Close United Presbyterian Church, Paisley; Cathcart St Church, Ayr; Secession Church Paisley; Music Hall, Edinburgh; and the Bridge St Chapel, Edinburgh. Many of these meetings drew large crowds.. On the 1 May at the Music Hall, Edinburgh, an audience of 2000 had bought tickets at sixpence each.  


Douglass was not always the only speaker on these occasions, but undoubtedly the main attraction. Other anti-slavery campaigners with whom he shared the platform included:

  -- James Buffum, an abolitionist and financier. James Needham Buffum was born in North Berwick, Maine, to Quaker parents. Buffum trained as a carpenter and established his own business as a house contractor in Lynn, Massachusetts. He grew wealthy through his business pursuits, which he expanded to include activities as a real estate speculator and financier. Dissatisfied with Quaker positions on reform, Buffum became an advocate of immediate abolition and a strong supporter of William Lloyd Garrison. Having independent means, Buffum traveled widely in the company of Garrison, Frederick and others...

  -- Henry Clarke Wright, the American activist who had been in Britain since early 1843.(see his book below)

  -- William Lloyd Garrison, the leader of the American Anti-Slavery Society and editor of its influential magazine, The Liberator - who toured Britain in 1846.

  -- George Thompson, an English militant who had long been associated with the Glasgow Emancipation Society.


- Rev. George Gilfillan (1813-1878) invited Frederick Douglass to speak at his church, George's Chapel. He was minister of School Wynd United Associate Secession Church, which became part of the United Presbyterian Church in 1847. After his death in 1878 a majority of the congregation, in an effort to continue his commitment to religious progress, broke away to set up an independent Gilfillan Memorial Church, which is still in Dundee today. School Wynd Church continued to 1926. Gilfillan was connected to anti-slavery networks through his association with Glasgow friends prominent in the radical Glasgow Emancipation Society. One author states, "Gilfillan invited Frederick Douglass to give a lecture at his church in Dundee, at which Douglass outdid himself in the boldness of his charges against those whom he held faithless to the cause of liberty." Gilfillan had a huge literary output of pamphlets, essays, criticism and editions of poets. His edition of Robert Burns is famous and still very readable as is his Gallery of Literary Portraits. In spite of the fame which came to him from his writings, Gilfillan did not neglect his church and his people. He was always willing to


help needy churches by giving one of his famous lectures on some literary theme. On Gilfillan's death the procession to the grave on the slope of Balgay cemetery was over two miles long.

-- George Gilfillan: Anecdotes and Reminiscences by David Macrae. First Edition, Morison Brothers Glasgow 1891

-- Bards of the Bible by George Gilfillan. 1869, Harper and Brothers edition. This probably is the first American edition -- the true first was published in Britain in 1851. The book is about the poetic quality of the Bible with an emphasis on Old Testament prophets.

-- 1863 edition of "Martyrs and Heroes of the Scottish Covenant" by Rev. George Gilfillan. Published by Gall & Inglis, London. 288 pages. It offers a succinct and impartial account of the history of the Scottish Covenant with an unbiased estimate of the character of its principal actors. Some of the key points include the policies of James I and Charles I, commencement of the Civil War, character and execution of Charles I, murder of Archbishop Sharp, skirmish at Drumclog, murder of John Brown, expedition of the Earl of Argyle, massacre of Glencoe, women of the Covenant, critical estimate of Ramsay, Ferguson & Burns, erastianism and priestly domination, etc.


-- Human Life; Henry Clarke Wright; Boston: Bela Marsh 1849...First Edition, 414p. . Size-5x7.5” Hardback. Illustrated, in My Individual Experience as a Child, a Youth, and a Man. Wright was one of the speakers at the 1846 Dundee event with Frederick Douglass mentioned above. Inside clean and tight with foxing. rubbed edges and bumped corners.

BACKGROUND: One of Garrison"s dearest friends; Wright served as the General Agent for the Garrison-inspired Non-Resistance Society after breaking with the less radical American Peace Society. Though educated at the Andover Seminary, Wright thought little of contemporary American Christianity --"I can only say, that I was disgusted with a religion without honesty, and with a God without truth, justice or mercy. To be an honest and Christian man, and a worshipper of the true God, I have been obliged to renounce such a religion....The present volume brings down my experience to 1835. It is interspersed with extracts from my journal kept in Europe from 1842 to 1847 (also chronicling the visit of Frederick Douglass), in the form of letters addressed to William Lloyd Garrison." An important figure in many antebellum reform movements and one of the most ardent and confrontational with a blunt and severe public style, though Garrison claimed he was a delightful companion in private gatherings.              

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