Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Frederick Douglass -- Separation from Garrison
When he placed his feet upon American land he had already decided he would separate himself from the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and establish himself as an independent voice.  He had the financial backing of new friends in England that would allow him to buy a printing press.  He would move his family again, this time to a location along the route of escaped slaves escorted to Canada, the last stop along the underground railroad, Rochester, New York, a prosperous manufacturing center of fifty thousand people, near Lake Ontario.  He would name his newspaper North Star.
The Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society leaders were not pleased.  Douglass had been their most effective spokesman; they had sponsored him, and while with moderate success they had controlled him they had also expanded him.  Now, seemingly, he considered himself too important for them; his ingratitude grated them.  To keep him within the fold, they sought to placate him.  He could now write regularly for the society’s official publication, the National Anti-Slavery Standard, published in New York City.  He also was invited to be a co-speaker with William Lloyd Garrison on an important speaking tour through Pennsylvania and Ohio.  To be granted equal status on the podium with the legendary white abolitionist was an honor Douglass appreciated.  He accepted both invitations and put aside temporarily his future, independent ambitions.
The tour with Garrison began well but in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a hostile element of the audience became violent.  Eggs, firecrackers, and stones were hurled up onto the stage.  “Throw out the nigger, throw out the nigger,” accompanied the fusillage.  Garrison, refusing to lose his dignity, solemnly declared the meeting adjourned, and was permitted to leave the building untouched.  Douglass, however, was the focus of the mob’s thirst for punishment.  He was able to reach the rear of the courthouse where a group of Negroes were huddled.  He took one by the arm and the others formed a wedge about him and advanced upon the door to the street.  Towering above the others, he could not hide his identity.  Another volley of rocks coursed through the air, one past his ear, another striking him in the back.  Two of the protectors behind him caught most of the punishment.  One staggered, but regained his balance.  The wedge reached the door; when they reached the street they scattered in separate directions.
Garrison and Douglass resumed their tour.  They shared a stage to Chambersburg on their way to Pittsburgh.  Ill, Garrison stayed temporarily at Chambersburg while Douglass continued the slow journey the next day.  Alone, he undoubtedly reflected upon the significance of his Harrisburg experience.
… While Garrison had all the dedication a man could possibly have to a cause, while he was sensitive to the very shadow of injustice and had proved more than once that he would not hesitate to give his life in the fight for freedom, the fact remained that the Harrisburg mob had not objected to his speaking while it had objected to Douglass’s.  The fact remained that Garrison had left the courthouse unnoticed and unmolested while Douglass had been saved only because his Negro friends shielded him with their bodies.  Eventually he and they had been forced to scurry into the darkness like rabbits chased by dogs
No, it had not been the same with his friend Garrison.  And it would not be the same with him as he journeyed by stage to Pittsburgh.  He [Garrison, unlike Douglass] would miss no meals at watering places along the way on account of his abolitionist sentiments.  Clearly there was a difference.  White men were converted to the principle of abolition.  Negroes were the natural abolitionists.  There was a certain dark section of the forest into which the hunted black man fled alone, into which his white antislavery friend could not follow.  Accordingly there was an area of his thought not shared by Garrison and the other white abolitionists (Bontemps 156-157).
That he should publish his own newspaper, be an independent spokesman against slavery, be completely free to express his doctrinal differences seemed more imperative than before.  Yet he was reluctant to break with his friend, who joined him in Pittsburgh a day later.  He said nothing to Garrison of his intended break.  Garrison, in turn, did not see the separation coming until it occurred.  The tour concluded in Cleveland, Ohio, and Garrison remained there for some time recuperating from the illness that overwork had induced.  Eventually, to his wife, from Cleveland, Garrison wrote,
“Is it not strange that Douglass has not written a single line to me … inquiring after my health, since he left me on a bed of illness?  It will also greatly surprise our friends in Boston to hear, that, in regard to his project for establishing a paper … he never opened to me his lips on the subject, nor asked my advice in any particular whatever.”
Most of those friends would not have been the least bit surprised.  They had already closed their minds to him.  Neither they nor Garrison were able to see how hard it was for Douglass to break with a mentor who had meant so much to him, but who, by his every encouragement, had made it impossible for him to remain in a subservient role.  Sadly, like many a father and son, the two men found no way to talk about the painful rift that had developed between them.  Instead, Garrison simply offered a lament: “Such conduct grieves me to the heart.  His conduct … has been impulsive, inconsiderate, and highly inconsistent with his decision in Boston [not to start his own paper] (McFeely 149).
Douglass had returned from England with $4,000 and the promise of further support from friends there, which he eventually received, 445 pounds from one individual alone.  He printed the first issue of North Star December 3, 1847.  Always, however, he would have difficulty keeping the enterprise solvent.  Anti-slavery newspapers had a limited circulation.  Even Garrison’s Liberator had to be sustained by various fundraisers conducted by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.  Douglass had to continue his lecture career to remain a printer.
The financial contributions of philanthropist Gerrit Smith, a subscriber, helped.
From his father, Peter Smith, Gerrit Smith had acquired land in all but six of New York’s counties.  Smith in 1846 had asked three prominent antislavery people to help him place 1,985 (of a projected 3,000) landless blacks, each upon from forty to sixty acres of land.  At the time Douglass was locating his enterprise in Rochester, Smith gave Douglass and three black associates forty acres of land each, with the message, “I welcome you to New York.”  What Douglass did with his land, which was not in the vicinity of Rochester, we do not know.  He probably sold it.  Smith also established a black community, North Elba, in the remote country in back of the Adirondack Mountains.  Additionally he gave grants of land to various black leaders to have them settle in upstate New York cities; as property owners they would be eligible to vote.
Douglass’s developing friendship with the wealthy New York landowner and rival anti-slavery advocate to William Lloyd Garrison widened the breech between Douglass and the Boston group.  Eventually, in retaliation, Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society leaders tried to persuade their, and Douglass’s, friends in Great Britain not to continue their support of Douglass’s newspaper.
Gerrit Smith and William Lloyd Garrison differed about how the assault upon slavery should be waged.  Garrison believed fervently that government was corrupt, that the Constitution protected slavery and should be condemned, and that only by the use of unrelenting moral persuasion could slavery be eradicated.  Smith believed that slavery could be ended only by the action of government.  The Constitution, instead, was an instrument that should protect the black man.  Advocates of slavery had, in the past, interpreted it incorrectly.  Abolitionist, like Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, should apply political pressure to affect change.  Although Frederick Douglass never deviated publicly from the Garrison position while he was in their employ, during the last several years of his association with the Boston group he had begun to alter his personal opinion.
In May 1851 Douglass went to Syracuse, New York, for the annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society, which Garrison also attended.  During a debate chaired by Garrison, Douglass stated that the constitution might indeed be a useful instrument.  Two weeks later in the North Star he declared openly that the Constitution “might be made consistent … with the noble purposes avowed in its preamble” and should “be wielded in behalf of emancipation” (McFeely 169).  Soon afterwards, Douglass merged the North Star with the Liberty Party Paper, whose financial backer was Gerrit Smith.  Douglass’s new paper, called Frederick Douglass’ Weekly, was political in nature, and with it Douglass openly criticized not the man but the anti-political stance of his former friend and patron.  Their separation was now irreparable.
Works cited:
Bontempts, Arna, Free at Last, the Life of Frederick Douglass, New York, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1971.  Print.
McFeely, William S.  Frederick Douglass.  New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.  Print.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Frederick Douglass -- A Free Man
As the time for his departure neared, Frederick had thoughts of staying in England permanently.  His anti-slavery hosts had invited him to remain; profits from the sale of his book in Europe were already providing him a comfortable income.  Most importantly, in the British Isles he had been treated as a respectable human being.  During his tour of Ireland he had written Garrison that in Ireland, “I breathe, and lo! The chattel becomes a man.  … I employ a cab--I am seated beside white people--I reach the hotel--I enter the same door--I am shown into the same parlor--I dine at the same table--and no one is offended.  No delicate rose grows deformed in my presence” (Bontemps 116).
Fortunately, his British friends had already set in motion an attempt to obtain his freedom.
One of his hosts had been Ellen Richardson and her brother and sister-in-law, Quakers with whom Charles Remond, another black abolitionist, had stayed in 1841.
… Ellen Richardson, about a decade older than the twenty-eight-year-old Douglass, was the headmistress of a girls’ school.   She had long been active in the antislavery cause, and cognizant of the personal problems that ex-slaves faced.  She and her brother took Douglass to the seaside, and there, “sitting on the sand,” he may have begun to see that moving his family to Britain could not work.   … Looking out at the water, he pondered … if “it would be safe for me to come home” now that he was so notorious and so easy for the Aulds to find.  “Observing his sadness,” Ellen Richardson made up her mind to arrange to buy him his freedom.
By the time Douglass was to go back, Ellen Richardson’s campaign had worked.  Her plea for money to buy his freedom had brought a check for fifty pounds from John Bright; she knew that with this money, and the prestige of Bright’s support, her efforts would succeed. 
With John Bright’s check in hand, Richardson confided in her sister and her sister’s husband, a lawyer.  … Exactly how the negotiations proceeded is not clear, but we do know that Douglass wrote about the problem to William A. White, who could find those in Boston who could get things done.  The man in the American Anti-Slavery Society who got the job was Ellis Gray Loring. 
Loring engaged the services of a New Yorker, Walter Lowrie, who in turn arranged for a Baltimore lawyer to ask Hugh Auld, the brother available in the city, for a price—or, more probably, to suggest one to him.  … The figure agreed upon was 150 pounds sterling—roughly $1,250—and when Hugh consulted him, Thomas Auld agreed to it.  In December, the transaction was completed: Hugh passed the money to Thomas Auld, who in Talbot County on November 30, 1846, had filed a bill of sale of “Frederick Baily or Douglass as he calls himself” to Hugh Auld; Hugh, in turn, on December 12, 1846, had formally registered a deed of manumission in the Baltimore County courthouse for “Frederick Bailey, otherwise called Frederick Douglass.”  The lawyers had made sure that there could be no misunderstanding about who was being set free (McFeely 137, 143-144).
Purists among the American Anti-Slavery movement were horrified.  Frederick Douglass and his supporters had engaged in the business of slave trafficking.  Garrison doctrine held that “any man who had another in bondage and paid him no wages on his
labor was a thief.  Those who bought and sold slaves were pirates, kidnappers and thugs.  It was a righteous thing for a free man to help a slave escape.  It was no crime for a slave to attack and destroy his enslaver if he got a chance.  The purchase of the slave was the first crime.  And no one had argued these matters more effectively in America or Britain than the young runaway Frederick Douglass.  How then could he turn around and meet the villainous breed on their own grounds?  How could he let himself be a party to a legal transaction which recognized the whole wicked machinery (Bontemps 136)?
... Presumably he [Douglass] would have been beyond criticism—and they would have wept over his fate—if he had gone back to Covey’s fields or had been shot while struggling to escape from those dragging him there.  Douglass, who responded to the attacks with more dignity than they deserved and more patience than were to be expected, preferred to be a free antislavery worker rather than a martyr.  To his credit, William Lloyd Garrison shared his viewpoint, and helped defuse the criticism (McFeely 144-145).
Frederick Douglass boarded the Cambria for American March 31, 1847.  Although he had purchased a first-class ticket, he was told that there would be conditions attached to his boarding of the ship.
… He would have to agree to take all his meals alone.  He would have to promise not to mix with the saloon company. 
As always on such occasions, Douglass spoke his piece.  He argued.  He denounced.  And he made sure that spectators, including newspaper reporters, heard what he said (Bontemps 138).
When the Cambria docked in Boston, Frederick Douglass, ignoring his luggage, “lept” onto the wharf, and scarcely nodding as he ran through a crowd of admirers, he raced for the train to Lynn [where his family now lived].  “In twenty-five minutes, I reached Lynn, the train passing my door from which I saw my family five minutes before getting home.”  Having waited impatiently for the train to finally stop, he rushed out of the station: “When within fifty yards of our house, I was met by my two bright-eyed boys, Lewis and Frederic, running and dancing with joy to meet me.  Taking one in my arms and the other by the hand, I hastened to my house” (McFeely 145).
Frederick Douglass had returned to his native land, to his family, and to his home, at last a free man.
Works cited:
Bontempts, Arna, Free at Last, the Life of Frederick Douglass, New York, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1971.  Print.
McFeely, William S.  Frederick Douglass.  New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.  Print.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Book Review
"The Town"
by Conrad Richter
What distinguishes a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel from well-written novels that do not win prestigious awards?  I would assert a deeper exploration into the psyche and behavior of the human species.  I would also suggest an undertaking of far greater depth and scope than the attention-gaining, quick-moving, character-conflict- resolution-end of story kind of novel.   I believe “The Town” meets these conditions.
I appreciated these three themes. 
The accomplishments that one generation achieves and the people who achieve them are too frequently discounted by people of succeeding generations tempted to believe, because their lives have been made easier, that they are more enlightened, superior.
Every child born of the same parents is different from his/her siblings, but all, usually, adopt the broad values inculcated during their upbringing. But there can be outliers that parents may never direct.
Great harm can be done to innocent children by cruel attitudes and acts of adults who adhere to rigid moral codes.
Intertwined in the revelation of these themes are two important characters: Chancey Wheeler, the youngest of Sayward and Portius Wheeler’s ten surviving children, and Rosa Tench, Portius’s illegitimate daughter.
Chancey Wheeler is the outlier of the Wheeler children.  Unlike his siblings, he is born with a delicate constitution.  He is sickly, physically weak, and seemingly handicapped by a weak heart.  During his first several years of life he is frequently carried to places in and close to the family house rather than be expected to walk.  Deprived of normal activity, he spends most of his time inert.  Much of that time he fantasizes. 
He resents his siblings’ robustness.  In his late teens he acknowledges the reasons for his dislike of them.  They were so sufficient to themselves, he thought.  That was it.  Nothing stopped them.  Any one of his people could go it alone, ask for no quarter, do without your help.  … If only there had been another in the family puny, lazy and cowardly like he!  Just the thought of having such a brother or sister, perhaps one even worse than he was, lifted him up, made him feel better.  But his mother wouldn’t admit he was puny or cowardly or anything else that wasn’t good.  He was strong as anybody else, she claimed.  … But nobody could make that much out of him, Chancey told himself, for none understood him save Rosa. 
He believes his mother resents him.  He convinces himself that Sayward and Portius are not his parents and he longs for the day when his real parents will take him away.  He tells fantastic stories – for instance, he rode in to town once on the back of a red cow – and insists that they are true.  As he matures, he resists doing menial work. In his middle teens he meets Rosa Tench and finds her to be an unthreatening, accepting soul.  Eventually, he leaves the home and start a career as a newspaper editor.  He is harshly critical of Sayward’s generation and of his oldest brother, Resolve, who has become governor of the state.  He steadfastly believes that his mother is cruel to him by insisting that he not be soft and lazy.  Eventually, Sayward blames herself for his shortcomings.  Where she made the mistake was letting a little sickness coddle him.  Had she brought him up rough and tumble like his brothers and sisters, he’d know how to call back worse names than he got, and then the others would be glad to leave him alone. 
He rejects everything Sayward values -- especially the virtue of hard work -- which he believes are old-fashioned, out-of-date.  In his late teens he and Sayward have this conversation.
This spring he tried every excuse to get out of working in the lot and garden.  When she held him to it, he cried out it was a disgrace.  She was thunderstruck though she tried not to show it.
“Why is honest work a disgrace?” she wanted to know.
“It’s all right for those who have to,” he told her.  “But you’re the richest woman in Americus and I’m your son and yet we have to go out and work like hired men in the field.”
It came to her mind to say, I thought you said you weren’t my son, but never would she cast that up to him.
“Work’s the best thing we can do, Chancey,” she said.
Caught up with fanciful notions of an enlightened society – justification to excuse his aversion to work -- he responds this way.
… progress will do away with all toil and labor in time.  … There’ll be no rich people and no poor people, just brothers and sisters.  And everybody will have security and happiness.”
Sayward answers.
“Making a body happy by taking away what made him unhappy will never keep him happy long.  The more you give him, the more he’ll want and the weaker he’ll get for not having to scratch for hisself.”
Chancey is an unsympathetic character throughout the novel.
Rosa Tench is the consequence of Portius’s marital infidelity with the town’s school mistress, Miss Bartram, who marries a local laborer, Jake Tench, prior to Rosa’s birth.  These events occur in Conrad Richter novel, “The Fields.”  Neither Rosa nor Chancey know of their blood relationship.  Mrs. Tench, following Rosa’s birth, becomes an isolate, never leaves her house, is slovenly, lives only to identify with characters in novels.  Rosa is an entirely different child than are her brothers, who are ordinary and rather crude.
We meet Rosa initially in a fascinating scene fairly early in the novel.
Portius, suffering a high fever, is being nursed back to health.  Rosa’s father, in a drunken state, wanting to prick Portius’s conscience, sends Rosa to the Wheeler house with a batch of flowers.  Sayward answers a gentle knock on the front door.
Her slender legs looked like they never belonged in that coarse gray calico dress she had on, and her white face had the singular shape of one of her blossoms.  Washed and rightly dressed and combed, she would be oddly beautiful, Sayward thought. Now the little girl just stood there, not saying a word.
Sayward gets Rosa to identify herself.
The sound of the name gave Sayward a turn.  For a minute she just stood looking.  So this was the child conceived in sin by the pretty school mistress who, they said, looked like a hag now, and would not set foot out of her house since the babe was born, nor would she wash or comb!  Why, the girl was no bigger than Chancey, though she must be a year or two older.  And now Sayward knew, with the feel of knife in her side, who the girl looked like.
Did the girl know it, too?  Her face quivered.
“I brought some flowers for Mr. Wheeler,” she said, very low, holding out her handful.
“I’m sure he’ll be much obliged to you,” Sayward told her, sober as could be, taking them from her, steeling herself, hardening her hand toward the soft clinging feel of those fingers,  Now how much did the child know, she wondered.  “Did you bring those your own self or did somebody tell you to?” she asked.
“My father told me.”  The girl’s eyes were like the most ethereal of wide slaty gray liquid curtains that threatened to be torn down.
Sayward recognizes Jake Tench’s intent.
just the trick Jake would play on some highly respectable bigwig …, send a bastard child to him with flowers when he was sick, but Jake would have to be might tipsy to play it on his own foster child and Portius.  Why, he had threatened death on any who told Rosa that she was not his own, or so she heard.
Sayward has to leave to tend Portius.  She instructs Rosa to sit just inside the front door to wait.  When Sayward returns, Rosa is gone.  Her daughters Huldah and Libby were at the door.
“Where is she?” she asked them.
“Do you know who that was?” Huldah leered at her.
“Of course I know.  What did you do to her?’
“We didn’t do anything,” Libby said.  “We just looked at her, that’s all.”  But her face said, “We sent her home a flying.”
“I can imagine how you looked at her,” Sayward said sternly.
This scene foreshadows Sayward’s difficulty accepting Rosa’s existence and the Wheeler children’s and Porticus’s rejection of Rosa throughout the novel.  It also foreshadows Rosa’s victimization by her mother, Jake Tench, and others in the community.
By accident Chancey and Rosa meet in town.  They discover that each feels estranged from their families.  Rosa takes Chancey for walks in the woods to enjoy the beautiful isolation of nature that she craves.  Chancey sees in her a sanctuary from his feelings of inadequacy and the resentment he feels toward his mother and siblings.  They grow older, continue to meet; their meetings become know to their families; they are forbidden by them to meet.  Portius has the sheriff warn Rosa and Chancey of the consequences of their continued meetings. After a subsequent meeting, Rosa’s mother says awful things to her.
“Don’t all right me, Miss Rosa!  If you don’t want to tell your own mother, I can’t make you.  But don’t tell her either, when the law brings your sin out in court.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Never did I dream I would have a daughter such as you!”
Their meetings are not sexual, as the public and family members suspect.  Each provides the other emotional release.  Unlike Chancey, Rosa is a sympathetic, almost beloved character.  We respond to her anguish when she looks through the windows of the Wheeler mansion and marvels at the advantages the Wheeler children have compared to what she must endure.
Wasn’t it the saddest thing in this world that you always had to be yourself, that you couldn’t be somebody else, that never, never, never could you be the person you most wanted to be?
I was furious at the outcome of her conflict.
I valued also other aspects of this novel.  For instance, the story, covering many years, mirrors real life.  Tragedies occur, challenges must be met, characters age, children are born, “progress” happens.  At the end of the novel the town is nothing like what the land had been when Sayward, a child, was brought into the deep forest by her father and mother at the beginning of the novel “The Trees.”  All three of Conrad Richter’s three novels about the Lucketts and Wheelers have an authentic feel about them that causes their readers to believe such a place existed.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Frederick Douglass -- To England and Ireland
Frederick’s voyage to England during the summer of 1845 mirrored what he had endured and fought against the past three years.  Traveling with white abolitionist James Buffum, he was segregated from white passengers on the steamship Cambia and forced to accept steerage accommodations.  Buffum had tried unsuccessfully to purchase a first-class ticket for Douglass and, having failed, had accepted steerage conditions as well.
After he had recovered from seasickness, Frederick began to fight back.  He sent several messages to the ship captain to protest his segregation.  Eventually he was permitted to come on the promenade deck when he was accompanied by Buffum.  Later he was seen walking with four Massachusetts musicians, the Hutchinsons, whom Frederick had specifically invited to accompany him to England.  These young men had already endeared themselves with many of the passengers and particularly the captain.  Soon they were passing out copies of Frederick’s book to many of the American and European passengers.
A group of planters from Charleston, South Carolina, resented the concessions granted Frederick, and, after having read his book, they resolved to make an issue of his presence in their midst.  The Hutchinsons appealed to the captain to allow Frederick to speak to the passengers on the forward deck.  They had seen how, before, he had pacified hostile or divided audiences; they were certain he could resolve the increasingly ugly situation.  The announcement of Frederick’s address infuriated the slaveholders, and when he appeared in front of them, with complete self-assurance, contemptuous of their sneers, they were at the point of breaking.  When he began speaking, they did, shouting, “Kill the nigger!  Throw him overboard!”
Douglass, seeing the intent of the slaveholders, fled to his steerage quarters.  He was saved by the timely arrival of the captain, who had been summoned from his bed by one of the Hutchinsons.  The captain threatened to put the slaveholders “in irons”; it was enough to defuse their resentment.  To the Hutchinsons, with whom he now sang “God Save the Queen,” “Yankee Doodle,” and “America,” he confessed, “I was once the owner of two hundred slaves, but the government of Great Britain liberated them, and I am glad of it” (Bontemps 108).
Douglass returned to the promenade deck.  His continued presence there was not challenged the remainder of the voyage.  The captain joined him and his musician friends on deck after dinner the evening of August 26, and they saw lights in the distance, the southern tip of Ireland.
Frederick remained in England for more than a year.  He spoke before many gatherings in England, Ireland, and Scotland, and was immensely popular.  He supported whole-heartedly the social causes that his British sponsors espoused, particularly temperance.  He was especially disturbed by the suffering of the beggars of Dublin, a consequence in part, he decided, of the consumption of alcohol.
He had gone out alone to explore the streets of Dublin and almost immediately they were around him, obstructing his direction.
“Will your honor please to give me a penny to buy some bread?”
“May the Lord bless you, give the poor old woman a little sixpence.”
All were in rags, dreadful rags.  Some who were without feet dragged themselves on the ground.  Some had lost hands and arms and held up their stumps for Douglass to see.  Others were so deformed their feet lapped around and laid against their backs.  Among them were women shamefully exposed by their tatters.  Some of these carried pale, emaciated infants whose sunken eyes horrified the former Maryland slave.  All were barefooted, of course.
“Oh, my poor child, it must starve!  For God’s sake give me a penny.  More power to you!  I know your honor will leave the poor creature something.  Ah, do!  Ah, do!  I will pray for you as long as I live.”
Frederick Douglass began emptying his pockets (Bontemps 111)
On his way through Ireland, Douglass saw what his antislavery hosts seemed blind to.  Reports of famine--the grim result of the first of the rotted potato crops--were in the newspapers.  Thin-armed children and their defeated mothers huddled at doorstops, as fathers tried, often unsuccessfully, to earn passage out of the ports of Wexford, Waterford, and Cork.  The antislavery people stepped around these Irish poor as they made their way into Douglass’s lectures about mistreated Africans in America.  [British] Abolitionists were generous in their concern for those who had been wronged, but in the late 1840s, a curious deafness to suffering at home accompanied their sympathetic response to what was endured across the Atlantic.
… In one of his finest letters, he [Douglass] wrote to William Lloyd Garrison of a mud-walled, windowless hut with “a board on a box for a table, rags on straw for a bed, and a picture of the crucifixion on the wall” and of the “green scum” covering the pit, near the door, full of “garbage & filth.  … I see much here to remind me of my former condition and I confess I should be ashamed to lift my voice against American slavery, but that I know the cause of humanity is one the world over.”
The physical conditions he had observed were in fact far worse than any he had experienced, but in this moving letter to Garrison he demonstrated how real for him was the chain that linked all suffering people.  He never was so rude as to call on his Irish hosts to look after the misery of their own island, and he had no plan with which to attack the starvation there.  He had pity, but no cure for the desperate needs of the beggars he saw on the streets.  In lieu of explanation, he resorted to the familiar dodge of blaming drunkenness (McFeely 126).
Works cited:
Bontempts, Arna, Free at Last, the Life of Frederick Douglass, New York, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1971.  Print
McFeely, William S.  Frederick Douglass.  New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.  Print.