Archive for April 24th, 2021

Frederick Douglass on his memory of French statesmen Victor Schœlcher (pubed 1903)

Victor Schœlcher - Wikipedia

It was my good fortune, for so I certainly esteem it, while in Paris four years ago, to have had several memorable interviews with the author of this book. I was first introduced to him in the Chamber of the French Senate by Mr. Theodore Stanton and on several occasions afterward met him at his own house. To say that I was very much impressed by his appearance and interested in his conversation is to say almost nothing of what I really experienced. I look back to my calls upon him as among the most interesting of the many interesting ones it has been my good fortune to make upon public men.

At the time I met him M. Schoelcher was already eighty years of age, yet the real living active man was there, and fully abreast with the demands of his time and country. Had he been in middle life, he could not have been more truly alive than he was to passing events at home and abroad. Like many other European statesmen he was deterred from labor neither by declining health nor weight of years, nor seemed to have any more idea of ceasing work than if forty years rather than eighty had been his actual age.

It was here that I learned his purpose to write the life of Toussaint, and heard his announcement with some amazement considering the many demands upon his time and considering his advanced age ; but he, better than I, knew the amount of work he could yet accomplish. I then ventured to promise that in case his biography of Toussaint should be published in the United States, I would write an introduction to the work, but with little expectation that I should ever be called upon to perform this grateful service.

Much that I then learned of the life and works of our author must be left to his biographer, but I may mention the surprise I felt in finding in Paris such a house as his. The room in which I found myself seated and where M. Schoelcher keeps his busy hand and brain at work was largely decorated with the emblems of slavery. There were old slave whips, which had been used on the backs of slaves in the French Colonies. On the walls were handcuffs, broken chains, fetters, and iron collars with sharp prongs which had galled the necks and limbs of despairing bondmen, but which now gall them no more. These barbarous implements of a past condition were sent to M. Schoelcher by negroes from the Colonies in grateful recognition of his instrumentality in setting them free. One could easily see that the venerable liberator looked upon these iron testimonials with a sense of relief and satisfaction. There were not wanting other and more valuable tokens of negro gratitude to this noble philanthropist, grateful evidences that he had not lived in vain. In these, Martinique and Guadaloupe were well represented. Better these than all the laurels gained on the field of battle and blood. They tell of those victories more renowned in peace than in war, and to which man may look without any heart-piercing thoughts of slaughter and the ten thousand horrors of war.

Several colored members of the Chamber of Deputies called upon Senator Schoelcher on the mornings of my visits. I was pleased to observe that his manner towards them had in it no show of patronage. He received them as one gentleman should receive another, with dignified cordiality. They came, I believe, to consult their venerable benefactor in respect to measures then pending in the Assembly of which they were members. Their manners plainly told that they had the fullest confidence in the wisdom of their adviser.


Source:

Open Court, 1903, Vol 17. p. 757 – 760.

Editor’s Note:

Those who steal my research and citations will be named & set afire in the flames.

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