Before his thirtieth birthday Dr. Frederick Douglass was uplifted on the floor of the House of Representatives as a representative intellect of the descendants of ancient Egyptians, the source for Greek civilization, and possessing oratorical ability equal to any national legislator.
In the Bicentennial of the birth of Dr. Douglass it is time to finally tell his life story in full.
For. Once. And. For. All. Times.
The Slave Question.
Speech of Mr. J. G. Palfrey,
In The House of Representatives,
January 28, 1848
On The Political Aspect of the Slave Question.
“… Again; the gentleman urged, to the point, the natural inferiority of the negro race. He has no doubt examined, and knows how to expose, the seeming paradox of those ingenious men who have held that the balance of power was shifted, and the sceptre of the world passed from the colored to the white race, some twenty-four centuries ago, at the capture of Babylon by the Persians; and I presume he decides that question rightly. [Mr. Clingman interrupted, and was understood to say he had referred to the Egyptians, and relied on the formation of the Egyptian skull.]
The gentlemen speaks of the Egyptians. Undoubtedly he has attended to the curious hint in Herodotus, bearing that question. The gentlemen quotes Appian, a writer not commonly in the hands of professed scholars. He is a reader of Polybius, and has weighed his merits and those of the other great masters that department of composition in such exact critical scales as to feel justified in placing him at the head of the list in respect to political sagacity.
He cannot have overlooked that singular passage in so common an author as Herodotus, in which the old chronicler has been thought to say, that the ancient Egyptians, the remote source perhaps of Greek civilization, were woolly-headed negroes. I will not defend that interpretation of his words. But it is no invention of any of your high-flying abolitionists of the present day; it have been received by grave and plodding English and German doctors, who read, and pondered, and smoke, and annotated, long before, such a lusus nature as an American abolitionist was ever heard of.
The gentleman has of course determined the complexion of the great captain of antiquity, the Carthaginian Hannibal, and knows how far it resembled that of the Lybians and Nubians whom he led to twenty years’ triumph over the sharp-peaked eagles of Rome. He sees how to dispose of the phenomenon of the French mullato, Alexandre Dumas, that miracle of prolific genius.
He can show that no stress is to be laid on such a case as that of the American Frederick Douglass, now of Rochester, New York, ten years ago a wretched slave, picking up scraps of leaves of the Bible in the gutters of Baltimore, to teach himself to read, then working three years on the wharves on New Bedford, without a day’s schooling I presume in his life, yet now speaking and writing the English language with a force and eloquence which, I hesitate not to say, would do no discredit to any gentlemen on this floor.
Appendix to The Congressional Globe for the First Session, Thirtieth Congress: Containing Speeches and Important State Papers (Vol. 17). City of Washington, Printed at the Office of Blair & Rives, 1848.
“The Slave Question.” Speech of Mr. J. G. Palfrey, 26 January, 1848.
30th Congress, 1st Session, p. 133 – 137.