Olivia Garber (UR 2016)
A Complex Conversation: William Cooper Nell, Frederick Douglass, and Spiritualism Among African Americans
African American Religious History (REL 157)
Final Archival Paper
Professor Margarita Simon Guillory
May, 6, 2014
The city of Rochester, New York has long been home to a number of diverse groups of people. The city has a reputation, particularly in the nineteenth century, as being a Mecca for groups such as women’s rights activists, abolitionists, other social reformers, and African Americans. As such, the nineteenth century climate of Rochester was one of a tight knit community of social change, with a number of individuals, including some former slaves, taking part in these growing movements. Evidence of their involvement in various aspects of the community, like newspaper publications, religious life, and correspondence with other reformers of the day, is still accessible today through a web of letters that were written and received by a prominent Rochester family, the Posts, to and from a number of other reformers. Evidence of the lives of the reformers, including African Americans, is prolific in these letters. One topic covered is the concept of spiritualism, a growing movement in antebellum Rochester, in which participants claimed to communicate with the dead. Various reformers, through letters to the Post family, weighed in on this subject. These included two prominent African Americans, Frederick Douglass and William Cooper Nell, who, although known throughout the same circles, represent two varying viewpoints on the emergence of spiritualism in Rochester, and as such can be seen as an indication of the fact that the African American community had little consensus on the matter.
Many are familiar with Frederick Douglass and his prominence as a former slave, newspaper writer and abolitionist, but less have heard of William Cooper Nell, another member of the circle of reformers of mid-nineteenth century Rochester. Nell was born in 1816 in Boston, Massachusetts and was the son of a known abolitionist. His father, though, had separatist leanings, and Nell differed from him in this sense, as he firmly believed in the principles of integration and achievement of abolitionist goals through collaboration between races (Moss 2007). In the 1830s, Nell became increasingly involved in the abolitionist movements in Boston, particularly in the area of equal educational rights. Through his efforts, he was able to meet and work with William Lloyd Garrison, a famously fiery abolitionist and editor of The Liberator, an influential anti-slavery newspaper of the time. Garrison, often noted for his strong beliefs that the Constitution ought to be rejected outright because of its proslavery leanings, was a part of the circle of social reformers that was involved in Rochester politics. Nell, because of his previous interactions with Garrison, was able to meet and collaborate with this circle (Moss 2007). His connections grew in 1847, when he moved to the city of Rochester to work under Frederick Douglass himself on the publishing of Douglass’ paper, The North Star. While in Rochester, Nell was exposed to the circle of reformers, including the Post family. Nell developed an especially strong bond with Amy Kirby Post, who he continued to correspond with, even after his eventual return to Boston. Although he started his work for Douglass with respect and admiration, a number of factors led to his ultimate split with Douglass and return to Boston just three years after he arrived in Rochester. The first was his continued respect for Garrison, who had previously clashed with Douglass on a number of issues, most notably their differing views on the Constitution. Additionally, Douglass and Nell differed on views of integration. While Douglass favored some organizations that were exclusively made of African Americans, Nell was a staunch supporter of change through interracial cooperation (Moss 2007). Whatever the reasons, however, it is clear that by the time Nell left his position under Douglass, the relationship had been strained. Thus, Nell returned to Boston to continue his campaign for equality of Education in 1849.
As previously noted, during his time in Rochester, Nell became involved with a larger scene of social reformers, particularly abolitionists. Among these were the Post family, especially Amy Kirby Post, and Frederick Douglass. In order to fully understand the correspondence regarding spiritualism between Nell and Amy Post, as well as the contrasting correspondence between Douglass and Post, it is first useful to understand the nature, goals and interests of the Rochester social reform movement. The members of Post family, for example, were prominent abolitionists. Amy Post herself was a founding member of The Western New York Anti-Slavery Society, which was founded in 1842. Her house in Rochester was not only a station on the Underground Railroad, but was also open to many anti-slavery speakers who passed through Rochester (Ampadu 2007). These included William Cooper Nell himself, as well as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Jacobs, whom she encouraged to write her autobiography. Amy Post was also an attendee of the Seneca Falls Convention for Women’s rights, and a Quaker and follower of the spiritualist movement (Ampadu 2007). The Post family letters, due to the prominence of the family in advocating social change, are seen as prime evidence of the social climate in Rochester during this period. At the time Nell and Douglass were in contact with Amy Post, mostly from 1849 to 1853, Rochester had a reputation for breeding new ideas. Well-known among these are women’s rights and abolition, but perhaps less well-known were the developing Spiritualist tendencies within the city. The movement had begun with the Fox sisters, Kate, Margaret, and Ann Leah, women from Hydesville, NY, who later moved to Rochester (Rochester Regional Library Council 2000). The sisters reportedly heard “mysterious knockings” in their home, and assumed that these were signs from the dead. They then formed a small society, of which they were the leaders and mediums, to meet weekly and communicate with these spirits. The Post family was attracted to this belief system, and became involved in the core group of followers as early as 1848, after they split from the Quaker traditions due to irreconcilable differences in opinion about anti-slavery action (Rochester Regional Library Council 2000). By 1852 the Posts had become so involved that Isaac Post published “Voices from the Spirit Worlds, Being Communications from Many Spirits”. The Posts, and others in the Rochester area at this time, were convinced that they, through the meetings with the Fox Sisters, could communicate with such spirits as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The idea seemed to catch the attention of a number of individuals, and by the mid nineteenth century, it seemed that Spiritualism was rapidly growing, as the belief system had thousands of mediums nationwide (University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections).
Therefore, the historical context that the letters from Nell and Douglass to Amy Post are a part of is rich and complex, to say the least. Not only were there deep and dense relationships going on, but there was an overall rich history developing within the city of Rochester, particularly in regards to spiritualism. It is under this context that the letters from Frederick Douglass and William Cooper Nell to Amy Post begin. There are numerous letters involved in these correspondences. To give a general image of what the conversation looked like, one letter from each Nell and Douglass will be described in detail, with a number of others explored as supplements. The letter in which William Cooper Nell perhaps most explicitly addresses his attitudes towards Spiritualism was written on December 12, 1849. This letter was written when Nell was living in Boston, to Amy Kirby Post, who was residing in Rochester. Nell addresses Post with a formal greeting, calling her his “esteemed friend (Nell December 12, 1849).” The letter then spans four pages in length and within this length of text discusses a number of topics, including Spiritualism and Abolitionism. Nell also has the tendency to mention a variety of social reformers, including Garrison, the Fox Sisters, Douglass and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Nell’s writing is detailed and complex, contributing to the length and depth of the four pages.
The primary example of Frederick Douglass’ letters to Amy Post takes a strikingly different format than that of William Cooper Nell. Douglass’ letter was written on February 28, 1850 from Douglass to Post, both of whom were residing in Rochester at the time. In terms of format, this letter is significantly shorter than Nell’s. Whereas Nell writes four pages on a number of subjects, Douglass’ letter is a mere page and stays focused on the topic of Spiritualism, specifically in the form of an apology to the Post family about offending them through comments he made on the subject (Douglass 1850). Douglass sticks primarily to this topic, and does not mention other names in excess throughout his letter, unlike Nell. Furthermore, While Nell maintains a sense of respect and reverence towards Amy Post, as reflected in his salutation, Douglass simply begins his letter with “Dear Amy,” signaling what is perhaps a sense of comfort or kinship between the two (Douglass 1850). His signature suggests a similar tone, as he signs the letter “Yours sincerely Fred Douglass”, using his nickname as a sign of comfort and informality (Douglass 1850). This, combined with the shortened length of the letter, provides a stark contrast between the nature of William Cooper Nell’s letter and that of Douglass.
These are but two examples of the format of the letters from Nell and Douglass to Amy Post, but the letters are much better understood as part of a larger and more complex dialogue, through which much can be discerned about Spiritualism among African Americans at this time. It is obvious by now that Douglass and Nell had some striking differences. Their relationship grew shaky in its final stages, and even the various writing styles of the two were deeply contrasted. This contrast is further developed in their various opinions on Spiritualism, for while Nell’s letters to Amy Post reflect his curiosity about Spiritualism and desire to grow more involved in the movement, Douglass’ treatment of the topic suggests his belief that the spiritualist movement was illegitimate and not to be taken seriously. It was a movement he certainly had no interest in becoming a part of. Therefore, although they were not writing directly to each other, these letters can be viewed as an expression of differing opinions on a new social topic. In his letter to Amy Post on December 12, 1849, William Cooper Nell establishes his interest, and perhaps belief, in “The Mysterious Knockings” of the spiritualist movement. For Nell, the spiritualist movement “is still a mystery”, yet he expresses that he “most sincerely [wishes] it was explained (Nell December 12, 1849).” This language reflects a common theme throughout the letter: that Nell himself is not yet deeply involved and knowledgeable about the spiritualist goings on, but finds that there could be some legitimate material in the movement that he could regard as a compelling belief if given the opportunity. This idea is further developed in what is perhaps Nell’s most telling statement in the letter: “I have at times thought the Spirits were manifesting a readiness to communicate here with me but to the present nothing tangible has been developed. I await further intelligence (Nell December 12, 1849).” Here, Nell is expressing to Amy Post, a known and devoted spiritualist, his search for signs that spirits are trying to communicate with him, but has not yet received any such signs. To go a step further, Nell believes that such spirits do exist and looks for their communication with him, and as such this statement is a reflection of his belief that spirit communications are something to be looked for and sought after. This is evidenced in his December twelfth statement that he believes the Fox sisters to be “entirely honest”, and their claims of knockings “to be true until proved to be otherwise (Nell December 12, 1849).” Nell, although not completely knowledgeable about everything happening in the movement, is willing to accept it until he learns more.
Additionally, Nell speaks of the movement’s growth in Boston, which he apparently seeks to be a part of. In the December twelfth letter, for example, Nell writes that “The Peoples to whom I mention the matter, Friends and Strangers, listen with every kind of expression on their countenances (Nell December 12, 1849).” From this statement, it can be deduced that Nell is partly responsible for the increasing interest in spiritualism in Boston, as he is taking part in fostering the initial conversations to get the movement to accelerate. Nell himself admits that he mentions the subject, not only to his friends, but also to strangers, and is encouraged by the increasing rumblings in the community regarding spiritualism. He further expresses his content to Post in a February 13, 1850 letter in which he notes that, upon hearing murmurings of Spiritualism in Boston he “could not help smiling (Nell 1850).” In addition, in a letter from August 11, 1849, Nell writes: “‘The Mysterious Knockings’ is exciting some interest in Boston= The Chronotype. has published 3 articles. I suppose from the Pen of E. W. Capron...I wish now I had procured a Copy of the Fly desville Book. If You have a spare one will You favor me with its use on loan if You desire its return? I have it in Embryo to prepare a lecture on the subject (Nell August 11, 1849).” Here, it is clear that the subject matter is beginning to become popular in Boston, with at least three articles being published, like one by E.W. Capron, a spiritualist writer of the day who is most noted for publishing Modern Spiritualism: Its Facts and Fanaticisms, Its Consistencies and Contradictions, a cornerstone text among spiritualists (Nell August 11, 1849). Nell, then, seeks to be a part of this movement, to obtain spiritualist texts, and even to lecture on the subject so that he, too, can be part of the movement’s growth.
It is also in these letters that evidence of the complexity of Nell’s relationship with Frederick Douglass, as well as the two men’s differing opinions on spiritualism, are introduced. For example, in his December twelfth letter, Nell writes that “Mr. Douglass passed through here some days since but I did not see him,” a somewhat strange statement when one considers it carefully (Nell December 12, 1849). Given the fact that the two had worked so closely for a number of years, one would expect that if Douglass was in Boston, they might see each other. Yet this did not occur, and is the first hint of the estranged relationship. Later in the letter, Nell again mentions his lack of contact with Douglass when he was in Boston, indicating perhaps that Nell dwelled on this fact, and may have been bothered by it. The drama between Nell and Douglass continues in Nell’s December 10, 1853 letter, where he describes his relationship with Douglass, with the phrase “enough of this”, indicating his level of exhaustion and frustration over Douglass’ behavior (Nell 1853). Furthermore, appearing to make no effort to be subtle, Nell outright tells Post that “F.D. is indefatigable in his abuse and misrepresentation of me,” showcasing his apparent anger over whatever conflict had arisen between the two men (Nell 1853). Personal problems and quarrels aside, one can gather from Douglass’ letters and publications, as well as Nell’s, that the two had starkly different views on spiritualism. While Nell viewed the movement as interesting, legitimate, and potentially beneficial, Douglass seemed to regard it as a hoax, not to be taken seriously. Nell acknowledges Douglass’ unwillingness to join the movement when he notes that “F.D….[is] not easily made [a] Proselyte of,” indicating the unlikely nature of Douglass converting to spiritualism (Nell December 12, 1849). This fact is first evident in Douglass’ own letters in a February 28, 1850 letter to Amy Post, where Douglass appears to be apologizing for offending the Post family for his actions while attending a séance at their home. It seems from his explanation that while at the ceremony he questioned the validity of the knocking noises, and further referred to one of the spirits in a disrespectful manner (Douglass 1850). In his letter to Post, Douglass attempted to eliminate any dishonor he had placed on himself by saying “you misunderstood me in supposing- that I applied the term atrocious to the company. That term was applied to the rapping when it refused to answer…. I certainly meant no disrespect (Douglass 1850).” Yet the fact that Douglass even had to offer this apology demonstrates his lack of respect for the spiritualist beliefs. In a later letter to Amy Post, dating from January 15, 1877, Douglass acknowledges outright that he is not a spiritualist by saying “I am always so happy to agree with you generally that I almost regret that I am not a spiritualist and the same feeling makes me regret that you are one (Douglass 1877).” Here, Douglass’s rejection of spiritualism takes an almost comical tone, as he notes that while he and the Post family agree on many matters, they disagree wholeheartedly on spiritualism since Douglass has no interest in the matter. Finally, Douglass asserts his feelings regarding Spiritualism to Amy Post in a third letter. The context in which he refers to the phenomenon almost appears to come about unintentionally, as he is discussing his desire to have a visit with the Post family, but notes that since the two cannot be together, they must be united in spirit. Douglass, then, noting the unintentional reference he has just made, clarifies by saying “I do not of course mean the “rapping” but a higher and to my mind a holier mode (Douglass 1848).” Here, Douglass’ lack of belief in, and perhaps even distaste for, the subject is confirmed. He puts quotations around the word rapping, indicating a sarcastic tone and a belief that the rapping is not real. Furthermore, he tells Post outright that he believes the “spirit” that connects the two friends even when they are apart is a more legitimate spirit than that which Post and her family are drawn to. His rejection of spiritualism, then, is uncandid, even in his letters to a spiritualist friend.
The Post letters, however, are not the only existing evidence of Douglass’ opinions of the spiritualist movement. His skepticism can also be noted in the paper which he published out of Rochester, The North Star. Here, in a November 23, 1849 publication, The North Star’s tone reflects the same skepticism that is seen in Douglass’ letters to Amy Post. The article, for example, refers to the spiritualist knockings as “Mysterious noises, supposed to be Supernatural”. It then refers to the source behind the knockings as “‘the spirit’, or whatever else it may be (The Mysterious Rapping-Public Meetings for Investigation 1849).” The use of quotation marks surrounding “the spirit” is repeated throughout the text of the article, suggesting a disbelief that the knockings actually originate from a spirit. Furthermore, The North Star notes that the mysterious knockings “have never been satisfactorily explained”, adding that the position of the newspaper is that it will “believe that it is so, when [it sees] (The Mysterious Rapping-Public Meetings for Investigation 1849). ” Douglass’ paper, like himself, seems to advocate a staunch skepticism towards spiritualist knockings, and unlike Nell’s belief that the knockings are true until proven otherwise, Douglass’ belief is that they are false until proven legitimate.
What is evident, then, is that William Cooper Nell and Frederick Douglass had starkly different opinions on the development of Spiritualism. Given that these are only two individuals, however, it is difficult to draw any real conclusions about what this meant for the African American community in general. A third figure might be useful in gathering more information. Harriet Jacobs was an African American woman, a former slave, who was also in contact with Amy Post, William Cooper Nell, and Frederick Douglass. The author of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, after some prodding from Amy Post, Jacobs was respected as a learned individual and noted abolitionist. Although her letters to Post are limited in their discussion of spiritualism, there is some slight mention, and indeed some indication that Jacobs herself had some Spiritualist leanings. In a letter simply dated August Seventh, with no year, Jacobs tells Post that she “had a letter from my Brother and Son just as the spirits told me it would be (Jacobs n.d.).” This is somewhat curious, for based on Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, one would tend to formulate the idea that Jacobs is a devout Christian, one that sees the church as a source of positivity in a world plagued by slavery. This is evidenced in her text through her description of the slaves’ “little church in the woods”, and statement that her community “had no higher happiness than to meet there and sing hymns (Jacobs 2000, 196).” This is striking, as Jacobs seems to represent a blending of more traditional Christianity with an interest in the spiritualist leanings of mid-nineteenth century Rochester. Finally, it is important to note that other than the Post family letters, there is remarkably little information on the development of the African American spiritualist community in Rochester. It seems from the letters that there is a rich history to be told here, yet historians have opted to focus on white spiritualism. Scholar Margarita Guillory explores the suppressed spiritualist history of African American women in her work “Spiritually Repressed: Exploring the Historical Repression of African American Women in Rochesterian Spiritualism”. Here, Guillory asserts that the histories of African American women spiritualists are hidden by historians because they are “recognized as undesirable counter-narratives that must undergo suppression (Guillory 2013, 158).” In other words, because these stories might “disrupt the flow” of the neat accounts that many are accustomed to, they are hidden away (Guillory 2013, 165). Although Guillory is discussing women specifically in this work, it is not a stretch to say that even African American male spiritualists challenged the status quo, and are thus not the subject of much scholarly work. Whatever the reasons, there is still much to be researched and discovered regarding this unique religious tradition at this particular time and place, and among this particular demographic.
Through the letters written by these three figures to Amy Post, three distinct opinions of spiritualism can be noted. Nell supported spiritualism, yet seemed limited in his ability to get involved with the movement. Douglass dismissed it entirely, and showed no interest in the subject. Still a third figure, Harriet Jacobs, represented a view somewhere in the middle. As such, there is no broad generalization that can be made about the attitudes of spiritualism among African Americans in mid-nineteenth century Rochester. They may have been aware of the movement and had opinions on it, but these opinions had the tendency to vary in their nature. It would be worthwhile to delve into this subject further, as these letters are but a piece of a larger story that has, apparently, been left relatively untouched for almost two hundred years. Perhaps this would best be achieved by researching individual African American leaders first, and then looking into what spiritualist congregations, if any, existed in Rochester at the time. William Cooper Nell, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Jacobs are a part of the conversation on spiritualism, but are simply three individuals within a much broader circle, and so while their conversations and letters are interesting and telling, they should not be regarded as a total representation of the climate of the day.
Ampadu, Lena. “Post, Amy Kirby.” In Encyclopedia of Emancipation and Abolition in in the Transatlantic World. N.p.: M.E. SHarpe, 2007. Accessed May 6, 2014. http://www.library.rochester.edu/ezproxy.php?dbredirect=http%3A%2F%2Fsearch.credoreference.com%2Fcontent%2Fentry%2Fsharpeeman%2Fpost_amy_kirby%2F0.
Douglass, Frederick. Frederick Douglass to Amy Post, February 28, 1850. Post Family Papers Project. University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections, Rochester, NY.
———Frederick Douglass to Amy Post, January 15, 1877. Post Family Papers Project. University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections, Rochester, NY.
———Frederick Douglass to Amy Post, April 11, 1848. Post Family Papers Project. University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections, Rochester, NY.
Guillory, Margarita Simon. “Spiritually Repressed: Exploring the Historical Repression of African American Women in Rochesterian Spiritualism.” In The Spiritualist Movement: Speaking with the Dead in America and Around the World, edited by Christopher M. Moreman, 155-70. Vol. 3. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2013.
Jacobs, Harriet Brent. Harriet Brent Jacobs to Amy Kirby Post, n.d. Post Family Papers Project. University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections, Rochester, NY.
Moss, Hilary J. “Nell, Wiliam Cooper.” In Encyclopedia of Emancipation and Abolition in the Transatlantic World. M.E. Sharp, 2007. Accessed May 6, 2014. http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/sharpeeman/nell_william_cooper/0?searchId=73f0e6d5-d534-11e3-be9d-0aea1e3b2a47&result=0.
Nell, William Cooper. William Cooper Nell to Amy Post, December 12, 1849. Post Family Papers Project. University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections, Rochester, NY.
———William Cooper Nell to Amy Post, February 13, 1850. Post Family Papers Project. University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections, Rochester, NY.
———William Cooper Nell to Amy Post, August 11, 1849. Post Family Papers Project. University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections, Rochester, NY.
———William Cooper Nell to Amy Post, December 10, 1853. Post Family Papers Project. University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections, Rochester, NY. The North Star (Rochester, NY). “The Mysterious Rapping - Public Meetings for Investigation.” November 23, 1849. Accessed May 6, 2014.
Rochester Regional Library and Council. “Isaac Post.” Winning the Vote: Biographies and Images. Last modified 2000. Accessed May 6, 2014. http://www.winningthevote.org/IPost.html.
University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections. “Biographical Sketch.” Post Family. Accessed May 6, 2014. https://www.lib.rochester.edu/index.cfm?page=1096.
Appendix A: William Cooper Nell’s December 12, 1849 Letter to Amy Post.
I am now seated at a Table in my Boston December 12th 1849 cold
Landladys Parlor = Herself and 2 Ladies Wednesday Eve. 9. oclock weather
with 2 children being about = though I am now using Ink
I am reminded of sitting down thus from the Ink stand you
in Amy Posts Room = and How I do miss presented me
Her and Sarah
My Esteemed Friend. Amy Post =
This evening being disappointed
in my anticipated meetings with My Sister Louisa and Mrs
Mary Bibb = and of an interview with a committee of the
Young Men’s Literary Society = I gladly avail myself of the
leisure moment to acknowledge the reciept [sic] of those two
valuable and interesting letters =the First with my Box of
Books =(for the safe transportation of please accept my sincere
thanks) Second =devoted mainly to the spiritual
matters which have thus far excited many Circles =
aside from Western New York = = Mr Garrison is somewhat
interested in the matters and intends publishing the Tribune correspondence
on the Mysterious Knocking and wishes me to impart some of my
experience with the Spirits and the Girls = He does believe as You do
but for many reasons seeks light = The Peoples to whom I
mention the matter. Friends and Strangers. listen with every
kind of expression on thier [sic] countenances = and to me it is still
a mystery and most sincerely do I wish it was explained
as You may well remember I regarded. Leah Margaret
and Cathy as entirely honest in the business and on those
premises the wonder and mystery is augmented.
I can appreciate the trials to which You and they were
exposed during the investigations. Knowing the
associations surrounding You in consequence of Your
believing them to be true until proved to be
otherwise = Your motives are Godlike and Your
satisfaction will be ample = even though the result may
be different so far as the Girls are concerned from what
You and other friends expect = in this opinion
Mr Garrison concurs and strongly censured those
who interfered and broke up the meetings.
I. have at times thought the Spirits were manifesting
a readiness to communicate here with me= but to the
present nothing tangible has been developed.
I. await further intelligence
I know of no such name as You ask about = and mentioned by
the Spirits = but should I learn of any such the earliest information
will be forwarded.
Mondays Tribune supplement: contained an able article
on the Mysterious Knocking = accounting for it as of a
Similar fact with those eventful traits in the history of
Swedenborg and A Jackson Davis = when You write
do tell me How William and Mary and other Friends now
feel on the matter = F.D.&.J.D of course are not easily
made Proselytes of = but I must now dismiss the
subject and talk of other matters -
Mr Garrison regrets his inability of attending Your annual
meeting. feeling grateful for Your Kind offer -
I would be extremely happy to wing my way to
Rochester. during the meeting or Fair – but this happiness
will be denied me = I must content myself with being
in attendance here = and my spirit much of the time
with my choice Rochester friends = Anne W. Westen
a few days since in the Anti slavery [sic] office enquired of me
the address of John S. Jacobs = I. presume intending to
Solicit his aid here for the Boston Bazaar =
they Know his worth and so do the Western New York
Anti slavery [sic] friends = Please tender my Kind remembrance
to him and his good Sister = Miss Fowler recently had a letter
from Louisa Jacobs
Will You at convenience learn from Leah Fish whatever became
of those musical Pamphlets and Scraps= I left with Her?
If You are not tired hearing of and performing such a favors
Mr. Douglass passed through here some days since but I did
not see him. I hope to do however before he leaves for West
Thursday Eve = 8. oclock
Here I am at the Town and Country Club Room No 15
Tremont Row of which I. have the charge = which with
my other offices Keeps me busy = and helps put Bread
and Butter in my mouth = It would please You to meet
here and share the society of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
A. Bronson Acott = and Literary men of various shades
of in belief and practice. = next Monday Evening
will be a pleasant season at the Ladies and Gentlemens
Conversazione. Fredrika Bremer will be present
This room is an incentive to poetic inspiration -
a splendid Bust of Homer the Father of Poetry adorns
one Niche = Engraving of Goethe and Carlyle
in appropriate pendant situations = the cream of
American and foreign Literature cover the Tables Vc
I can assure You I. glean much valuable information
from the different Circles = Members and Strangers
(Rev Pharcellus Church is a member ) =Radicals and
Conservatives = embracing= Clergymen= Lawyers Physicians
Artists = in Music Painting Architecture Vc all meet
here and discuss about the many things Celestial.
and Terrestial [sic]
I have been promising to attend Sunderlands Course of
Lectures on Pathetism = He is now creating a similar
excitement as that of Professor Rogers. Last season =
Frederick Douglass. I learn by Remond passed
through here to day [sic] enroute for Rochester = I lost the
chance of seeing him.
I am much ^obliged^ for all the Rochester news Your letters
contain, escpecially so much relates to the anti slavery [sic]
friends with whom I. became acquainted = the least
word concerning any of them -I richly appreciate.
When and to whom is my good friend Jacob
going to be Married = Does Joe make
seizures now upon Bridgets Store of Milk
Pies Vc= Does he generally rise in time for
Buckwheats? How does Bridget and Her
Cousins come on = Is Joanna lively as usual
Is it to be understood that Isaac and Amy Post
William Mary and Sarah Hallowell will grace the
next New England Convention with thier [sic]
presence =? How sincerely do I hope so.
Should I ever again visit Rochester I should hope
to have Willie remember me= at least as the
Individual who some mornings would emancipate
him from Bed and covered with a stray shawl
introduce him to Father and Mother at Breakfast
Who sits now in my corner behind the stove
Dont You and Sarah sometimes think of the Evening
when the Lamp fell and the Gas on fire spread
over carpets= Dresses Vc= I. verily believe
one third of my thoughts are busy with
many thanks for Your Kind donations to Harriet
she remembers You gratefully = she is now in poor
*Note: The Text at the beginning of the document appears jumbled and out of order, but this is due to the fact that the text itself was written in a jumbled nature, scrawled in the margins and spaces of Nell’s original letter.
Appendix B: Transcription of Frederick Douglass’ February 28, 1850 Letter to Amy Post
I own that I wholly mis apprehended the
object of the meeting at your house
last night. I supposed that it
would be in order to test the genuine-
ness of the rapping in any form
written the bounds of order such
proved not to be the case- and since
yourself and Husband have thought
me reprehensible for my conduct
I make a statement of the facts.
you misunderstood me in supposing-
that I tried applied the term atrocious
to the company. That term was applied
to the rapping when it refused to
answer the question of Mr. Dick
when that question was the only
one put which would test
the intelligence of the agents
by which the rapping was
made. I certainly meant no
disrespect to yourself or husband.
Yours sincerely Fred Douglass