University of Rochester Library Bulletin: A Partnership in the Abolition Movement

Volume XXVI · Autumn-Winter 1970-71 · Numbers 1 & 2A Partnership in the Abolition Movement--ERWIN PALMERProfessor of English, State University of New York, OswegoThe abolition of slavery was one of the most stirring and significant movements of the nineteenth century. Early to prohibit the institution was Great Britain (1834). Eleven years later a young Negro orator and abolitionist, named Frederick Douglass, went there as a protégé of the Garrisonians and spent nearly two years lecturing before many groups. One of these organizations, important for any study of Douglass, was the Women's Anti-Slavery Society of London.Several members of the Society were to play very important parts in Douglass' life. Two of them, especially, identified by Douglass as Mrs. Ellen Richardson and Mrs. Henry Richardson, members of the Society of Friends,1 were driving forces in collecting enough money (150 pounds or $711.60) to buy him from Captain Hugh Auld of Maryland to whom his ownership had been transferred by his old master, Thomas Auld, the Captain's brother.2 The two Richardson ladies manumitted him in December of 1846, 3 thus legalizing the freedom he had conferred upon himself by his flight from slavery. Another, Julia Griffiths of Newcastle-on-Tyne, presented him "with a valuable collection of books, pamphlets, tracts, and pictures as a starter for educating him in the cause of abolition."4 Later, she and her sister Eliza followed Douglass to the United States where Julia remained nearly eight years as his assistant on The North Star, a paper he founded in December, 1847, following his return from England.During his stay abroad, Douglass took under consideration many proposals concerning his future. Several of his friends suggested that he give up all thought of returning to the United States, send for his family and take up permanent residence in England. However, Douglass felt he had a mission in the United States. Of all the possibilities he discussed with his English friends, the one closest to his heart was that of establishing a newspaper. He felt that if his supporters wanted "to make me a testimonial," both "on the ground of personal regard" and their devotion "to the cause,"5 one of the best ways to do so would be to provide him with help to start a paper with the basic objectives of demonstrating the black man's native ability and of establishing a black public voice in American affairs. As a consequence, Douglass was given "nearly twenty-five hundred dollars"6 to launch a paper as a demonstration "of the latent powers of the colored race."7Douglass' original intention was to have started the paper in Boston, Massachusetts, from where he had embarked for England. However, he returned from abroad to discover that Garrison and his followers, his original sponsors with whom he discussed his project, were strongly opposed to it on the grounds that no such paper was needed and Douglass could do more for the cause as a speaker. Overawed by their arguments, he delayed action for several months, even, at one point, announcing his abandonment of his hopes. Finally, he determined to go ahead with his plans anyway and published a "Prospectus for an Anti-Slavery Paper"8 to be published in Cleveland, Ohio. He soon changed his plans and decided to move to Rochester, New York, "from motives of peace,"9 and because of his cordial reception there a few years previously on one of his speaking tours. Perhaps in this decision to leave Boston lay some of the seeds of the later decisive break between Julia Griffiths and Frederick Douglass on the one hand and the Garrisonians on the other.Douglass returned from England in the spring of 1847, but it was not until December of that year that the first issue of his paper, The North Star, was published from the basement of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (otherwise known as "Zion Church") on Favor and Spring Streets in Rochester, New York.10 Subsequently, Douglass moved his office to 25 Buffalo Street in the Talman Building opposite the old Reynolds Arcade.11 The period between spring and late fall had been occupied by discussion with Garrison and others, correspondence (with his English friends especially), the final triumph of his own views, and his departure for Rochester on November 1, 1847. Early in the following year, he returned to his family in Lynn, Massachusetts, where, according to The North Star of February 11, 1848, he was "in the midst of preparations for removing" his family to Rochester.It was not long before the paper began to experience financial difficulties. In May following the appearance of his paper, Douglass appealed to his readers from the editorial page: "We are reluctantly compelled to call upon you for pecuniary assistance."12 Douglass mortgaged his home on Alexander Street in Rochester for five hundred dollars to help meet expenses. Real help, though, came in the person of Julia Griffiths. Evidently in response to Douglass' expression of distress and to an earlier letter in which he despaired of publishing a paper,13 she immediately made a quick round trip to the United States,14 and returned to stay in 1849, accompanied by her sister, Eliza. Years later it was of Julia that Douglass wrote:

But to no one person was I more indebted for substantial assistance than to Mrs. Julia Griffiths Crofts.15 She came to my relief when my paper had nearly absorbed all my means, and was heavily in debt, and when I had mortgaged my house to raise money to meet current expenses; and by her energetic and effective management, in a single year enabled me to extend the circulation of my paper from 2,000 to 4,000 copies, pay off the debts and lift the mortgage from my house. Her industry was equal to her devotion. She seemed to rise with every emergency, and her resources appeared inexhaustible. I shall never cease to remember with sincere gratitude the assistance rendered me by this noble lady, and I mention her here in some humble measure to 'give honor to whom honor is due'.16

The English ladies landed in New York early in May, 1849, and Douglass met them. Julia and her sister soon displayed the seriousness of their convictions when they cancelled their registration at the Franklin Hotel on learning that Negroes could not register there.17 While they were in New York, Douglass and the sisters attended a number of sessions of the anti-slavery convention being held in that city. Julia listened to a long debate in which Douglass was involved on the constitutionality of slavery and afterwards commented unfavorably on the presentation of a speech by Henry Bibb in which he urged the presentation of a Bible to each and every slave. She commented rather acidly that the speech "was a poor, weak"18 thing. Benjamin Quarles, Douglass' biographer, says, too, that the two English women met a number of abolitionists of the time, in particular, William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass' original sponsor and later adversary.During their stay in this country the sisters suffered various indignities and criticisms because of their free association with Douglass, a Negro and ex-slave. The worst fracas, probably, in which they were directly involved, occurred on the trip up the Hudson from New York to Albany on their way to Rochester. When Douglass and the two sisters entered the dining room of the LIDA, on Thursday, May 8, 1849, he was ordered to get out, first by the steward, then by the mate, and finally by the captain, who succeeded in convincing Douglass to leave. The sisters, in protest, followed him out of the dining room. As a consequence, the party had nothing to eat until they reached Albany.19 Their trials and tribulations did not appear to faze Julia very much, however. To her, these disturbances were all a part of the calculated risk she had undertaken in coming to the United States to fight slavery. To Douglass they were part of his everyday life as a black man in America.Once in Rochester, Julia plunged with fervor into the work of putting The North Star on its feet financially. Another Douglass scholar, Philip S. Foner, goes so far as to say, "Indeed, were it not for Julia Griffiths the paper on many occasions would have been forced to suspend publications."20 Quarles, too, says, "It was largely due to Miss Griffiths' efforts that Douglass was able to issue a periodical for sixteen years."21 He asserts, further, that Douglass "owed much of his literary precision to Miss Griffiths' blue-penciling"22 even though he had "an inherent sensitiveness to language forms." There is no question that Douglass learned a great deal about language from Julia, but at the same time his "sensitiveness to language" is thoroughly apparent in his pre-Julia publications.Julia seems quite conscious of her role in assisting Douglass, particularly in her position as guardian of the exchequer. In a letter to Gerrit Smith she says, "Remember, Dear Sir, I am the Banker for the paper -- I know, always, PRECISELY, how the accounts stand -- ."23 The note of calm assurance evident here and present in most of her correspondence of this period must have been most helpful in sustaining Douglass in his project in the face of his self-doubts, his fears, and the various material obstacles of all kinds that he had to overcome. Part of her responsibilities lay in getting subscriptions. She wrote continually to such leading figures as Gerrit Smith and William H. Seward. It is a bit amusing to observe with what tenacity she followed each promise of a subscription. She wrote to Seward, for instance, reminding him of his pledge and that he was "receiving his paper constantly,"24 and therefore should send in his five dollar pledge.Upon at least two occasions, Douglass was a bit abashed by Julia's aggressiveness in his behalf. Julia was aware of Douglass' feeling, for she relayed it to Gerrit Smith in a letter, July 10, 1851: "Our friend Frederick is rather disturbed at my having troubled you . . . as he feels . . . claims before you to be too heavy."25 At another time Douglass acknowledged Julia's interest and energy when he wrote to Smith, "Your letter to my friend Miss Griffiths in which you send 25 dollars to be used in publishing my 4th of July speech makes me uneasy. The zeal of my friend is great and I fear she sometimes seems too urgent in my behalf."26 Nevertheless, Julia persisted in her efforts to raise money, sustained by her devotion to Douglass and to the cause of abolition. In the main, she was successful. Her ability was recognized by persons like Booker T. Washington who said that many friends had come to Douglass' rescue, but that the most important of them was, "Miss Julia Griffiths, a most gracious woman, who took hold of the business management herself."27 Within a year, because of her, he said in the same passage, "The circulation increased from two thousand to four thousand and enough money was realized to pay off all indebtedness and lift the mortgage on Douglass' home."Perhaps one factor helpful to the establishment of Douglass' affairs on a more secure financial basis than they had been was the monetary involvement of the sisters themselves. They had been helpful in raising the original twenty-five hundred dollars which Douglass had used in starting his paper. At a later time, after her return to England, Julia remarked that she had spent all in the cause of abolition that "was justifiable."28 In 1848, for example, a mortgage was recorded in Rochester, advancing $500 from a John Redzie to Douglass.29 This mortgage later was turned over to Julia by her sister, Eliza, 30 which possibly was done to relieve Douglass of "outside indebtedness."Besides helping with the mortgage, soliciting subscriptions and contributions, and performing sundry other activities, Julia developed other resources to aid Douglass and his paper. Taking advantage of the anti-slavery sentiment in Rochester, which was strong, and of the practice of holding bazaars and other affairs to raise money in the cause of abolition, Julia characteristically decided to give these activities a more firm direction. Accordingly, as she wrote to Gerrit Smith, "I am just forming an anti-slavery circle here."31 The society was soon fully operative with Julia as its more or less permanent secretary. In a letter to William H. Seward, she first thanked him for his continued assistance to the cause and then indicated that the ladies of the Circle would "feel highly gratified"32 if he could make a donation once again. "Our society," she continued, "is distinguished, pre-eminently, for its Catholicity and its freedom from ultraism and bigotry," attitudes which were ultimately to cause her so much distress. At another time she solicited Senator Seward's attendance at the Women's Anti-Slavery Festival of December 23-24, 1852, to be held in Corinthian Hall,33 a popular meeting place of the period. She strove strongly to engage and maintain Seward's interest and support.The anti-slavery bazaars held by the Circle were evidently quite successful. Julia, in an undated letter to Gerrit Smith, first thanked him for his appearance at the bazaar where, "According to my prophecy, my dear, kind, friend, your presence did very, very much for us,"34 and then informed him that more than four hundred dollars had been taken in. She pointed out in the same letter, a bit proudly, perhaps, that "The sale of British articles (sent especially for the benefit of Douglass' paper) had amounted to $133. . . ." In another undated letter from Canandaigua where she had gone to speak before the local anti-slavery society, she regretted that "Douglass' recent batening labors do little or nothing to increase the paper's treasury and the people are too absorbed in the coming elections to think of paying for a paper. . . ."35At the same time, in an effort to improve the financial base of The North Star and of her anti-slavery society, Julia set out to raise a thousand dollars from the sale of a gift book, Autographs for Freedom, which she edited to help, as she says in her preface, finance her newly formed society.36 In the book appeared material of various types from prominent abolitionists and sympathizers over their autographs printed in facsimile. Emerson sent a poem entitled, "On Freedom."37 Jay, Greeley, Whittier, Seward, Stone, Beecher, Willard, and, of course, Gerrit Smith and Frederick Douglass, among others, sent selections for the book. Also included were a number of leading Negro abolitionists like Dr. J. McCune Smith, the well-known reformer and educator. A second series of the book was issued the following year.As early as September 25, 1851, Julia wrote to Seward complimenting him on the article he had submitted for the gift-book because it "seems to me so complete that it needs no revising."38 She wrote again the next year, asking him for a contribution to the second series, doing so, she said, "In the slave's name and for his sake, we have been made bold to ask it."39 This statement was characteristic of Julia Griffiths. Her faith in the cause led her to utilize almost any means or person showing promise of being helpful to the movement to which she had dedicated herself. After she had seconded her request to Seward,40 he responded immediately, perhaps because she had thanked him and then had given a little dissertation on herself. This account of her history seems a bit strange at this point in their relationship in as much as they had been corresponding for some time. At any rate, she told him, "I am an Englishwoman of the Wilberforce School of Abolitionism; and I have been, in three years past taking an active part in the struggle here, so far as regards aiding to sustain and compile Frederick Douglass' Paper -- which paper I DO believe to be a very important Anti-Slavery instrumentality -- . " In another paragraph of the same letter she repeated her opposition to "all ultraism and infidelity," against which she had inveighed earlier, and stated further that emancipation was itself unpopular enough without being "impeded in its onward march by having to drag along a string of issues too numerous to be counted." As a result of her dedication to the single issue of emancipation, she felt, she was "about as unpopular with the ultra-Garrisonians, as with the ultra-proslavery" groups.In other letters to Seward, Julia called Autographs for Freedom to his attention.41 On December twenty-seventh, 1853, 42 she told him that she had heard of a lady in Auburn who had sold fifty copies of the gift book in one day, assuring him, "Your portrait sold it there." Miss Griffiths could be usefully complimentary. She had also, she said, sent fifty copies of the book to Gerrit Smith.Julia, as resourceful as always, developed yet another method of helping Douglass and his paper. She had decided to solicit one hundred prominent people for a ten-dollar contribution from each to raise a one thousand dollar sustaining fund for the paper. She had the idea, she wrote Seward, from "My friend, Mr. Benjamin Coates of Philadelphia," who "suggested to me the desirableness of raising $5,000 by $10 donations. . . . But I told Mr. Coates," she said, "I could not attempt such a gigantic enterprise, but I could try to raise the thousand dollars."43 By January of 1854 she had managed to raise four hundred and twenty dollars. "Among the first forty donors," according to Foner, "were such leaders as Gerrit Smith, Dr. J. McCune Smith, Sumner, Chase, Greeley, Seward, William Jay, H. W. Beecher,"44 a list of contributors much like that appearing in Autographs for Freedom.Seward seemed especially to attract Julia's sincere interest and approbation. She asked him to speak before the Ladies' Anti-Slavery group on the Kansas and Nebraska Bill, assuring him, "I do not desire to go to Washington again until you are President."45 On a Tuesday night in February 1855, she wrote: "Amidst the thousands of congratulations you will receive on your re-election permit me to take the liberty of expressing joy at the good news that has just reached me -- Such a bonfire is burning in our city that has not been seen for many a day!"46 In a postscript to this letter she reiterated the substance of her earlier statement, "You know I have said, I do not care to go to Washington again until I can attend your reception in the WHITE HOUSE."Seward must have been extremely gratified by this expression of belief in him. Her admiration did not wane. Several years later, after her return to England, Julia enclosed a note to Seward in a letter to Douglass: "I remember so well sitting down in the study of my esteemed friend, Mr. Frederick Douglass, to write my congratulations to you, on your re-election to the office of Governor of the State of New York (sic)* . . and I have no words to express the extent of my disappointment and regret at the strange decision made by the late Chicago Convention, and the nomination of Abraham Lincoln (an unheard of individual out of his own state) as the Republican candidate for the presidency."47 Of course, Julia was not destined to see the fulfillment of her wish, but it was evident where her heart lay. In this devotion to Seward she displayed a constancy and faith which were quite characteristic of her whole behavior. Certainly she never deviated from her belief in Seward or her devotion to Douglass and his cause.Not everyone, even among the abolitionists, was so dedicated to working for the freedom of the slaves as Julia Griffiths. Even though she was quite realistic about the difficulties relating to emancipation in the United States, she was deeply pained whenever she encountered opposition from any quarter from which she might have expected sympathy. She was astounded by the attitude of Jenny Lind. She described her interview with the famous singer in a letter to Gerrit Smith: "Of course, you are aware of Jenny Lind's presence in this city - I did not hear her last evening as I heard her in London, but I did call on her this morning - and I did obtain a private interview with her - universally benevolent as she is decent, the colored people are regarded by her as beneath humanity - and too unworthy to be educated. . . ." Jenny Lind, she continued, "Is thoroughly pro-slavery."48 Julia was deeply troubled by Miss Lind's statements because she was aware of the singer's charities and could not understand her indifference, even hostility, to the rights of the black people as humans. She was amazed and grieved that the Swedish soprano "should turn a deaf ear to colored humanity." Gerrit Smith was properly horrified: "Alas, Jenny Lind! I had hoped she was a woman! I had even hoped that she was a Christian! But she is neither - She denied God and the human brotherhood. I had almost said I loved slavery. It is so useful in revealing character."49Julia did not confine all of her efforts to The North StarAutographs for Freedom, and the like. When there were items left over from the bazaars, she frequently bundled them up and took them across the lake to Canada, to sell. She was also involved in the underground railroad, an activity she seemed to experience with considerable relish. Douglass described how he "dispatched"50 Julia to the landing on the Genesee River to arrange for the passage to Canada of three fugitives he was helping at the time. The three were participants in the famous Christian case, and in escaping, one, William Parker, killed their master. Julia wrote to Gerrit Smith : "We have had great excitement in our house since we parted with you on Friday - on Saturday, THREE FUGITIVES (conducted by a reliable colored man) came to Alexander Street to ask aid -- They proved to be William Parker himself and two others engaged in the Christian affair. We secreted them for 8 or 9 hours . . . Mr. Loguen and I drove to the LANDING - to make necessary inquiries concerning Canada, Boats, etc. -- Frederick consulted with Mr. S. D. Porter first. . . ."51 The men at first proposed driving the fugitives to Lewiston by night, but she "felt that the unusual mode would attract attention." She added that if a boat at the landing proved to be an "English boat it would be safer to put them on board." Luckily, there was an English boat at the landing, and she made arrangements with the black who kept the landing to give a special signal should any trouble occur at their approach. Nothing did happen, and the party reached the landing and boarded the boat safely.Frederick and Julia were ever on most cordial terms with Gerrit Smith, the central New York philanthropist. In April of 1851, they visited him at his home in Peterboro52where they no doubt talked over Smith's proposal for the union of The Liberty Party Paper in which Smith was interested and which was in sore straits, and The North Star. After Julia and Douglass had returned home and worked on the details of the merger of the two papers, Douglass became a bit apprehensive and informed Smith that the merger could not be carried out so soon as expected, not before the twenty-sixth of June.53 The newspaper, known as Frederick Douglass' Paper, appeared on the thirtieth, missing Douglass' target date by only four days. Management and procedures remained much the same, as did the finances, despite an initial improvement resulting from Smith's pledge of a certain amount down, to be followed by monthly payments for a year. Douglass felt it necessary soon after the appearance of the paper to thank his friend and sponsor once more: "I thank you sincerely for your response to the appeal of my friend Miss Griffiths. I regretted that you should so soon be called upon for a helping hand . . . I was under the hawser and my friend Julia seeing it cried out in my behalf. . . ." 54 The specter of insolvency was ever present, and Julia's aid continued, even in the summer of 1858, three years after she had returned to England for the purpose of raising more money for the paper. Douglass began publishingDouglass' Monthly, designed primarily for circulation in England. In it Julia had a column in which she announced to her readers: "A large amount of money has up to this time, been collected and sent over by 'mine own hand'; to my corresponding anti-slavery friends in the United States."55One of the most difficult tasks concerning the relationship between the two abolitionists is to assay the exact nature of their feelings for each other. Shirley Graham, in her fictionalized biography56 of Douglass, does not mention Julia Griffiths at all; nor does Paul Swartz, United States Park Historian;57 nor John Thompson, a Negro writer from Rochester who wrote a brief account of Douglass' life in his book issued on the occasion of the raising of a monument to Douglass in that city.58 This is somewhat surprising considering the amount of help the English lady rendered Douglass and the cause of emancipation and the length of time during which they were associated. But Edmund Fuller goes almost to the other extreme in his novel based on the life of the ex-slave59 and has the two principals declare their emotional attachment, although he does not describe any actual closer relationship.From time to time discontent in New York, Albany,60 Boston,61 even Rochester62 was expressed concerning Douglass' free association with Julia and Eliza. This criticism was to be expected from proslavery and rough elements, but it was heightened for others by the fact that the two sisters resided with Douglass at his home at 297 Alexander Street. Julia's removal to another location after three years' residence there helped to confirm the suspicion in some minds that all was not well with the Douglass family. It is evident, of course, that their intellectual companionship, close business relationship, and their commitment to the cause of emancipation would throw the ex-slave and the English lady into constant and extremely close association. Julia wrote to Smith, ever a real confidante, about the "home trials"63 which Douglass suffered. In order to comfort him and to ease his tribulations, she read to him evenings. She nursed him in sickness. She was constantly at his side in his office, at home, and at the paper. In view of the closeness of Julia and Frederick, Mrs. Douglass would of necessity occupy the background on perhaps too many occasions. This no doubt rankled Mrs. Douglass deeply.The rising chorus of public comment, in addition to his home situation, caused Douglass as early as 1849 to castigate editorially those who "artfully and deliberately manufacture lies and insidiously circulate them with no other motive than to blast the fair name of another."64 A year and half after this defense, Douglass wrote to his old friend, Samuel D. Porter, the same man to whom he had turned during the Christian affair, protesting his awareness of his duties as husband, father, and citizen, and stating firmly : "When the city, which you allege to be full of scandalous reports implicating Miss Griffiths and me, shall put-those 'REPORTS' into a definite shape and present a responsible person to back them it will be time enough for me to attempt to refute them."65 Mrs. Gerrit Smith wrote from Rochester to her husband that Julia Griffiths "took tea with us. We had a long talk alone in which she poured out her sorrows. I will tell you when we meet. She is deeply afflicted with this 'strife of tongues.'"66 Certainly it could be expected that a lady of Julia Griffiths' nature would be deeply "afflicted" by the situation within which she found herself.This private and public criticism blended with the growing disenchantment of the Garrisonians. Beginning with his decision to move to Rochester, from "motives of peace" as he had declared, Douglass and the Garrisonians had disagreed more and more. The Garrisonians had not liked Douglass' initial show of independence and they liked even less his changing ideas. Julia Griffiths certainly played a considerable part in this estrangement. She was rather explicit in her attitude toward Garrison when she wrote Seward on September 23, 1852,67 "Hence I am about as unpopular with the ultra-Garrisonians, as with ultra-proslavery people: especially, as when I have heard Mr. Garrison nearly deified I have said that you in Congress, were fighting a far harder battle than he, and needed even a greater amount of moral courage to sustain you--." She declared years after her return to England that she "never did like any of that lot of folks and I NEVER SHALL."68 Perhaps, too, she sensed, as Quarles describes it, a certain condescension in Garrison's attitude toward Douglass, a freed Negro, one who could be an acolyte but must not aspire to real equality. As we have seen in her letter to Seward, she disliked "ultraism," and Garrison and those who belonged to his party were very "ultra." "I really begin to hate the word PARTY,"69 she declared in a letter to Smith. Douglass had demonstrated his independence of Garrison by establishing a paper and by the gradual adoption of views unpleasing to his former mentor, culminating in the beliefs that anti-slavery action should be expressed by political and not merely moral means, that the Union need not be sundered, and that the churches were not necessarily supporters of slavery.70 All of these points of difference led to a growing estrangement between the former friends and to increasing attacks on Douglass and Julia Griffiths. Several papers like the Pennsylvania Freeman and The Liberator and particularly The Anti-Slavery Standard of September 24, 1853 which spoke of Julia as a "Jezebel" finally provoked Douglass to devote a large part of the December 9, 1853, issue of his paper to a rebuttal. This in turn caused Garrison to attack Douglass and Julia openly in an editorial in The Liberator of December 16, 1853, heading it with the caption, "The Mask Entirely Removed" and excoriating Douglass for his defection from Garrisonianism and blaming a ". . . bad advisor in Mr. Douglass' printing office," whom he accused of exerting "a pernicious influence upon him." He had accused her earlier of not only influencing him in his own household but had also "perniciously biased his judgment," concerning which statement he now backtracked a little, saying, "That last allusion was not meant unkindly, nor intended to imply anything immoral; but, though it is strictly true, and we could bring a score of unimpeachable witnesses in Rochester to prove it, we regret it was made, as it had no relevancy." But Garrison's efforts to appear fair were mitigated somewhat by his concluding sentence: "In what condition his vision now is - and whether slumbering in the lap of a prejudiced sectarian Delilah, he has not at last enabled the proslavery Philistines to ascertain the secret of his strength, cut off his locks, and rejoice over his downfall we leave our readers and the uncompromising friends of the anti-slavery cause to judge." One of the first results of the Garrison attack was that a note, purportedly from Mrs. Anna Douglass, denying that "the presence of a certain person in the office of Frederick Douglass causes unhappiness in his family" was received by Garrison. Although he printed71 the letter72 and expressed a certain regret in his December sixteenth editorial for "having implied anything immoral," he had nevertheless said that he could bring "a score of witnesses" to prove his point. The situation was complicated by the fact that many knew of Mrs. Douglass' inability to write. Quarles quotes Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, American Suffragist, to the effect that she was convinced that the letter had been "concocted by Fred and Julia,"73 and sent in Anna Douglass' name. Furthermore, Mrs. Stanton felt that Mrs. Douglass would never sign a paper denying Julia's having caused domestic discord in the Douglass household, because Mrs. Douglass had told another friend "Garrison is right - it is Julia that has made Frederick hate all his old friends . . . I don't care anything about her [Julia] being in the OFFICE, but I won't have her in my home."74 Despite their difficulties, Frederick and Julia weathered the storm and remained close friends all their lives. Apparently, the affair made absolutely no difference in their working relationship or in their mutual personal regard, and she bolstered him at every opportunity, constantly concerned about his health and his general well-being.In a letter to Gerrit Smith dated only December 18th, but which must have been written about this time (1853), Julia thanked him for having sent Douglass a clipping from an Albany paper and assured Smith that "I have every hope that by the beginning of next week, Frederick will be well enough to make all due comment on the article."75Also she hinted rather delicately about "inconveniences of ALL KINDS to which it has exposed us have affected him considerably. . . I do hope to attain some portion of quiet which (if Douglass is to write vigorously and lengthily) is essential -- It is, however, a peculiarly difficult matter to convince those individuals who have no idea of MARITAL calm, that quiet is a requisite accompaniment for working with the brain." No doubt all this public clamor not only affected Douglass' peace of mind but also aggravated the various physical ailments from which he suffered.In a number of letters to Seward and particularly to Smith, Julia reported on Douglass' health and urged that they write to him. In one letter to Gerrit Smith, Julia said that Frederick had been "confined to his bed with a severe attack of what we believe to be inflammatory rheumatism. He has not been well, you know, for some time - and in the course of the last fortnight he has had THREE SEVERE FALLS - Ten days since, the pains in his limbs commenced . . . incapable of using his lower limbs to any extent." She also wrote: "A line from you to poor Douglass, for the paper, RELATIVE TO HIS sickness and hoping that our correspondents will do their duty, in this crisis, might be very helpful--."76 She wrote to Seward, too, commanding, "Do, my dear Sir, send poor Douglass a cheering line, and a small donation: -both will be highly prized, I assure you, by him."77 Douglass' debility was not always entirely physical, however. In November 1851, Julia wrote to Smith in "great agony of mind," concerning Douglass' state: "He had a VERY fatiguing and hurried journey to Providence" and the "immense anxiety (pecuniary and family) is beginning to affect, dear friend, Frederick's mind. . ."78 What was apparent was that Douglass was in a profound state of depression over his situation at a time when his speaking tours were so demanding. That there was not permanent emotional or mental damage is obvious from his subsequent history of achievements. However, there is no doubt that pressures of all kinds were building strongly during this period. Any doubts or fears he might have had were magnified several fold by these pressures and sure to depress him at times. It is a measure of his strength -- and Julia's devotion -- that he survived them all to go on to ever greater accomplishments.That Julia was a sustaining force for Frederick has had ample demonstration, and he was ready to attest to it at any time. He wrote to Smith in reference to a speech he had recently made: "Well, some here think it is a good speech - foremost among those who think so, is my friend Julia - She tells me that it was EXCELLENT!"79Even after her return to England, Julia exhibited a constant and vital interest in Frederick Douglass and his affairs. When he expressed a desire to Julia that he cease publication of his paper when President Lincoln should issue the EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION, she was moved to reply with her old spirit:

Now a word, my dear friend, about your personal matters and GIVE ATTENTION to what I say. Even if all goes as you wish it on the 1st of January YOU MUST NOT GIVE UP YOUR PAPER. This is the 15th year of its existence in some shape, and tho' the name has varied, the Editor has always been ONE and the SAME man, now more than ever. The paper was started from this side of the water and the ground for obtaining material aid for your branch of the cause is the paper . . . I wish I could fly over the water and have a conversation with you.80

By 1855 the paper was more than usually in need of substantial help. Julia, who, as director of its finances, had exhausted her resources locally and who, no doubt, by this time was anxious to see her native land, decided to return to England for the purpose of raising more money for the paper from sources which had proved fruitful in the past. As she wrote to Seward: "I am on the eve of departure for England (my native land) where I hope to spend four or five months; and if all be well to return to the United States towards the close of the year-. . . ." 81 She also asked for a recommendation which seems a little strange since it was to be used in England where she was known. However, she probably did so to attest to the quality of her work in the United States and so let her English supporters know that their contributions in the past had been put to good use. At any rate, she returned to England, formed a number of additional anti-slavery societies, and began to write for Frederick Douglass' Monthly as well as to abstract Douglass' letters for the London Mercury.She did not return to the United States, but she continued her interest in this country, first, of course, by maintaining a correspondence with Douglass. She wrote from 15 Grove Terrace, Leeds, on December 16, 1861, to Gerrit Smith informing him that she heard frequently from "our dear friend Frederick Douglass." She also reacted strongly to the Trent affair:

Yesterday week the TRENT news first reached us and flaming placards met our eyes, 'Insult to the British flag'--'War with America'--and now everyone is talking on possibilities--God grant that this horrible calamity may be averted . . . I am afraid there has been a great distortion, on the part of some of the Northern Press, to represent us as being unfriendly to them in their struggle for freedom.I am enclosing to friend Loguen, to whom I am sending a little money for fugitives--I wish it were more--to our friend Douglass, I am also sending by tomorrow's mail--He wrote me--weeks since that in this time of war excitement he found it 'hard work to keep the wolf from the door' so I have gathered a little money. 82

So it may be seen that even four years after her return home she was still sending money in the cause of freedom.Julia also maintained her interest in Douglass' career. In 1863, Douglass indicated to Secretary of War Stanton in a conference with him his willingness to accept a commission in the United States Army and assist in the recruitment of troops in the Mississippi Valley.83 This action Julia firmly opposed. In a letter to Smith, she exclaimed, "I fervently trust that nothing will induce him to go South -- his weapon is his pen."84 She expressed herself even more vigorously and rather bitterly to Douglass: "I pray you do not venture South -- and never your attempt to fight with the SWORD -- the pen is your weapon ! Let the Americans kill one another -- YOU have no country to fight for, dear Frederick. . . . "85 Julia's fears were groundless because the commission never came, although Frederick had assured Stanton that he could be ready in two weeks time.On almost the thirtieth anniversary of Douglass' departure from England, Julia wrote from Gateshead-on-Tyne and offered an interesting sidelight on his attitude toward whiteness, one which might find some appeal today: ". . . this is 1877 - and 30 years ago this March (1847) we had an anti-slavery London soiree and Eliza pinned that white carnation on your coat and the naughty brother Frederick never rested til he knocked off the beautiful white flower leaving only the green leaves. . . . "86Julia also informed Douglass that she and Reverend H. O. Crofts, whom she had married in 1859, were moving to "The Cross, St. Neots, Hunts" and asked him to visit them the next summer. However, it was not until October 1886 that Douglass and his second wife (a white woman named Helen Pitts whom he had married in 1884) were able to accept Mrs. Crofts' invitation in the course of a European tour. By that time Mr. Crofts had been dead nearly ten years. Douglass and Helen visited Julia for several days, then resumed their tour.Julia's life apparently was not pleasant in her latter years. She supported herself for some time by running a boarding school for girls; but the project rather played out as she wrote from St. Neots to Douglass, "I have only 11 boarders this term -- and about the same number of day pupils -- and I NEED 4 or 5 MORE GOOD boarders to make all right . . . but if I gave up I should have nothing. . ."87 Later, she became a governess, but lost that position just before Christmas. She wrote, "I have not the least idea what will become of me . . . Oh, it is terrible to be homeless in this cold, selfish, world! . . . The mother of my pupils intimated to me that her husband did not want the governess of his children to have many friends -- in the town -- especially so many dissenters!"88 Julia's lifelong intellectual independence now endangered her livelihood at a time when she was unable to fight back with much strength.Within a few years an even more distressing eventuality came about. In a letter to Douglass in which there were scrawled only four or five words (in huge letters) to the line, with only eight or nine lines to the page, Julia wrote, "I have been under the care of a first class oculist since last January -- for a singular affection of the eyes, termed 'Hemoraged (sic) arteries' -- It greatly interferes with my correspondence. . . "89 She concluded by begging Douglass to write, as she usually did.There were disappointments, but Julia could have the satisfaction of knowing that she had labored fully and well in the cause of freedom and was happy to see the day when she could write to Douglass, "How gloriously the cause of freedom is advancing-there is truly great cause for rejoicing in the recent doings of Congress and of good honest ABBE (sic) -- that much abused man! How difficult must his position have been throughout the struggle! The 23rd July 65 -- will be a signal day in the history of America."90 No doubt she frequently thought of her old life in this country as she did that day in Cornwall when she, "Stood on the 'Lands End' the other day where the great Atlantic and our channel meet-the nearest point of England to America."91* Seward was re-elected United States Senator from New York State in 1855. NOTES

  1. Frederick Douglass, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (Hartford, Connecticut, 1882), p. 289. (This book will hereafter be referred to as L&T).
  2. Papers concerning Douglass' sale and manumission are among the Frederick Douglass Papers now housed (temporarily) at the National Capital Regional Office Building, 1100 Ohio Drive, Washington, D. C., during the restoration of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Home at Cedar Hill, Anacostia, D. C. This collection will hereafter be referred to as FDP.
  3. L&T, p. 289.
  4. Philip S. Foner, The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass (New York, 1950), I, 87.
  5. L&T, p. 291.
  6. Ibid., p. 292.
  7. Amy Hanner-Croughton, "Anti-Slavery Days in Rochester," The Rochester Historical Society Public Fund Series (Rochester, 1936), p. 126.
  8. "Prospectus for an Anti-Slavery Paper," The Liberator, October 15, 1847, p. 167.
  9. L&T, p. 295.
  10. Howard W. Coles, The Cradle of Freedom (Rochester, N. Y. 1941), p. 129.
  11. Hanner-Croughton, p. 126.
  12. The North Star, May 5, 1848.
  13. April 28, 1848, FDP.
  14. Benjamin Quarles, Frederick Douglass (Washington, 1959), p. 103.
  15. Miss Griffiths married Reverend H. O. Crofts about four years after her return to England.
  16. L&T, p. 292.
  17. Benjamin Quarles, Frederick Douglass (Washington, 1959), p. 103.
  18. Quarles, p. 103.
  19. Ibid., p. 104.
  20. Ibid., p. 87.
  21. Quarles, p. 88.
  22. Ibid., p. 87.
  23. Dated only "Saturday Morning" but probably written in 1851. Gerrit Smith Collection, Syracuse University, hereafter referred to as GSC.
  24. April 18, (1851); March 26, (1850). W. H. Seward Collection, University of Rochester, hereafter referred to as WHSC.
  25. GSC.
  26. July 14, (1852), GSC.
  27. Booker T. Washington, The Autobiography of Booker T. Washington (Philadelphia and London, 1906), p. 125.
  28. Letter to Gerrit Smith, December 5, 1862, GSC.
  29. Frederick Douglass Folder, Historical Room, Rochester Public Library.
  30. Quarles, p. 111.
  31. August 26, (1851), GSC.
  32. February 18, 1852, WHSC.
  33. November 27, (1852), WHSC.
  34. March 21st (N.D.), GSC.
  35. October 26, (N.D.), GSC.
  36. Autographs for Freedom, ed. Julia Griffiths (Boston and Cleveland, 1853), I. preface.
  37. Ibid., p. 353.
  38. September 25, (1851), WHSC.
  39. July 20, 1852, WHSC.
  40. September 23, (1852), WHSC.
  41. October 11, (1853); November 4, (1853), WHSC.
  42. WHSC.
  43. June 9, (1853), WHSC.
  44. Foner, V. I, p. 89.
  45. August 28, (1854), WHSC.
  46. WHSC.
  47. June 15, 1860, WHSC.
  48. July 23, (1851), GSC.
  49. Gerrit Smith to Julia Griffiths, July 25, 1851, GSC.
  50. L&T, p. 313.
  51. February 24, (1851), GSC.
  52. Blake McKelvey, Rochester, The Water Power City, 1817-1854 (Cambridge, 1945), p. 350.
  53. June 10, 1851, GSC.
  54. September 3, 1851, GSC.
  55. February 26, 1859.
  56. Shirley Graham, There Was Once A Slave (New York, 1948).
  57. Paul Swartz, Frederick Douglass (Washington, 1961).
  58. John Thompson, An Authentic History of The Douglass Movement (Rochester, 1903).
  59. Edmund Fuller, A Star Pointed North (New York and London, 1946).
  60. Letter from Julia Griffiths to Gerrit Smith, December 11, (ND.), GSC.
  61. Quarles, p. 104.
  62. Foner, V. 2, p. 48.
  63. Letter from Julia Griffiths to Gerrit Smith, August 26, (1851), GSC.
  64. The North Star, October 26, 1849.
  65. January 12, 1852, S. D. Porter Papers, University of Rochester.
  66. January 14, 1853, GSC.
  67. WHSC.
  68. Letter from Julia Crofts to Frederick Douglass, July 5, (ND.), FDP.
  69. Letter from Julia Griffiths to Gerrit Smith, February 22, (1852), GSC.
  70. L&T, p. 294.
  71. The Liberator, December 2, 1853.
  72. November 21, 1853.
  73. Quarles, p. 106.
  74. Ibid., p. 106.
  75. GSC.
  76. Thursday morning (ND.), GSC.
  77. November 9, 1851, WHSC.
  78. November 24, (1851), GSC.
  79. July 7, 1852, GSC.
  80. Letter from Julia Crofts to Frederick Douglass, December 5, 1862, FDP.
  81. June 5, 1855, WHSC.
  82. GSC.
  83. L&T, p. 388.
  84. Julia Crofts to Gerrit Smith, June 16, 1863, GSC.
  85. Julia Crofts to Frederick Douglass, August 28, (1863), FDP.
  86. Julia Crofts to Frederick Douglass, March 26, (1877), FDP.
  87. Julia Crofts to Frederick Douglass, undated, FDP.
  88. Julia Crofts to Frederick Douglass, second page only of a letter (no date or place), FDP.
  89. Julia Crofts to Frederick Douglass, June 10, (1892?), FDP.
  90. Julia Crofts to Frederick Douglass, October 11 (ND.), FDP.
  91. Julia Crofts to Frederick Douglass, August 21, (ND.), FDP.

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