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Former Vice President & U.S. Minister to Court of St. James refused Frederick Douglass passport to Paris

George Mifflin Dallas 1848.jpg“He took passage for England from Quebec on the 12th day of November, 1859, and was everywhere received with the old-time cordiality. As he was fresh from the scenes and events that had stirred the English almost as much as the American people, he was in great demand for more complete information. He had occasion to deliver many addresses and it was everywhere manifest that he had lost none of his former prestige.

The only setback he suffered was when he applied to George M. Dallas, the American Minister to the Court of St. James, for a passport for the purpose of visiting Paris. He was refused on the ground that he was not a citizen of the United States. His visit was cut short by the distressing news of the death of his beloved little daughter, Anna, the delight and life of his home, his absence having covered only five months. He returned to find the public temper toward him mollified by the swift happenings of a season which was marked by incessant change in the currents of popular feeling.”


Frederick Douglass by Booker T. Washington. 1906, p. 193 – 194

This story was told by FD during his life. A relatively moderate level of Douglassoniana obscura.


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Frederick Douglass in Paris visits grave of Marquis de Lafayette w/ Theodore Tilton

File:US Marines Decorating Grave of Lafayette, Picpus Cemetery, Paris 1889.jpg

US Marines Decorating Grave of Lafayette, Picpus Cemetery, Paris 1889

Grave of Lafayette.

American readers should be interested in anything that pertains to the chivalric, valorous, liberty-loving French nobleman-Washington’s bosom companion and trusted lieutenant – Marquis de Lafayette. A special correspondent to the Chicago Record, writing from Paris, September 7, gives some very interesting and not generally known facts concerning the last resting place of this most helpful friend of America in the days of ’76.

The University Club of Paris, which is composed of graduates of American colleges residing in this city, has taken charge of the grave of Lafayette, in the ancient Picpus cemetery, which contains the tombs of some of the oldest and most famous families of France. The club has left with the concierge at the entrance a register in which American visitors are asked to inscribe their names. The book contains an account of the ceremonies at the cemetery on the last Decoration day, written by Theodore Stanton, who is the leader in this patriotic movement. The first signature is that of ex-vice President Stevenson, who is followed by Ambassador Porter, Senator Wolcott, Consul-General Gowdy and various other American visitors and residents in Paris who participated in the ceremonies May 30. Among other inscriptions is the following:

“Theodore Tilton, 73 Avenue Kleber, Paris.

“And having thus registered my name today I will here add a reminiscence of ten years ago. One morning in the autumn of 1886 Frederick Douglass, who then making rambles with me through Paris, asked to take him to the tomb of Lafayette. On arriving at the Picpus cemetery we chanced to be the only visitors present and had the quiet nook all to ourselves. Standing by the granite slab, Mr. Douglass said, with sudden emotion and emphasis: “This spot is doubly hallowed; this patriot had two countries for his own.”


“Grave of Lafayette.” Timely Topics, Vol. II, No. 7. October 22, 1897. p. 108.

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Frederick Douglass Bicentennial News Notes (mid-January 2018)

FD 200With the absence of any national website, institution, newsletter / journal or society organized around Frederick Douglass and while the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission exists on paper, in the interest of Douglass news here are a couple of stories that may be of interest to Douglassonians.

‘Network to Freedom’: Historical society, library seek to organize James Congdon’s historical records”

  • News on processing of personal papers of Abolitionist James Bunker Congdon of New Bedford and Douglass statue planned for New Bedford. [South Coast Today. Steve Urbon, @SteveUrbonSCT]

Exhibit to explore Frederick Douglass’ visit to Ireland

  • A Connecticut museum dedicated to Irish history is launching an exhibition focusing on the time Frederick Douglass spent in the country in the 1840s. [AP]

New York Historical Society — Frederick Douglass Council Event 

  • Feb. 13, 2018: A Special Celebration Honoring the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of Frederick Douglass


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Small biographical entry on Douglass biographer; Frederick May Holland

FD In DCPL library catalog _ Frederic May HollandMany folks claim to be Frederick Douglass scholars but fewer have ever published a single sentence about his life and times in so much as a local newspaper and lesser have ever published a book or monograph of original research.

We all know FD wrote his own autobiography about 3.5 times. In modern times Robert S. Levine at University of Maryland and a couple others have written about FD’s writing of himself. That is not the scholarship I particularly care for. May it be under the genre of literary criticism, but I prefer literary history because FD ran with many writers, journalists, poets and authors.

During his own lifetime FD had two biographers, James Monroe Gregory, a professor at Howard University FD knew well, and the seemingly “elusive” Frederick May Holland.

Recently came across this small entry for Holland in Charles Dudley Warner’s (a neighbor of Mark Twain in Hartford, Conn.) Library of the World’s Best Literature: Biographical Dictionary

Holland, Frederick May. An American Unitarian divine and miscellaneous writer; born at Boston, 1836. He has written: “The Reign of the Stoics” (1879), giving their history, religion, maxims, etc. ‘Stories from Browning” (1882); “Life of Frederick Douglass” ; “Rise of Intellectual Liberty from Thales to Copernicus,” ; etc.


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PRINT ARCHIVE: Colored people of Washington, headed by Frederick Douglass, viewing and paying respect to their radical friend, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner [March 1874]

John Brown wasn’t the only firebrand white man Frederick Douglass ran with. Whereas Brown was an operative, an assassin who operated on the fringes of the struggle for radical abolition, there were also white men in the halls of the United States Congress and Senate who were radicals within the system of the federal government.

It was former President John Quincy Adams’ efforts while serving as a Representative to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia which made the national papers that a young Freddy Bailey picked up while running the streets of Baltimore in the 1830s which provided the context clue of what abolitionists were and what they were working towards abolishing.

Throughout his entire life Douglass was an operative and an organizer. He allied himself with anyone willing and seeking to do right, as he determined what was right.

He broke with William Lloyd Garrison, a radical white man, over their countering interpretations of the Constitution.

Before moving to Washington City in early 1870 Douglass had relationships with many a number of white men serving in the House and Senate and even the federal judiciary, including former Ohio governor and senator Salmon P. Chase. It was Chase, then serving as Chief Justice on the Supreme Court, who hosted Douglass in Washington in March 1865 when Douglass attended Lincoln’s second inaugural address.

Frank Leslie's _ 28 March, 1874 __ FD escorting Sen. C. Sumner to lay in Capitol Rotunda

Barry Farm Dwellings knows Charles Sumner as Sumner Road cuts through the Farms past Charlie’s Corner Store, the recreation center and towards Firth Sterling Avenue.

Frederick Douglass knew Charles Sumner, too. They were dear and trusted friends. When Sumner died in office in 1874 Douglass led an effort on behalf of colored citizens of Washington City to show out strong at his wake and viewing.

“On Friday, a day rare even for March in its bleakness, the funeral services were held in the Senate chamber at midday. The procession, moving from the senator’s home in the morning, was led by a body of colored people on foot, at the head of whom was Frederick Douglass. The immediate guard in charge from the police of the Capitol was made up in part of that race. The body lay for some hours in the rotunda, where thousands, only a part of those who pressed for admission, took their last view of it. It was then borne to the Senate chamber, where it was awaited by the President and Cabinet, the justices of the Supreme Court, the diplomatic corps, the high officers of the army and the navy, with General Sherman at their head, and the members of both houses.”


Pierce, Edward L. Memoirs and Letters of Charles Sumner, Volume IV, 1860 – 1874. Roberts Brothers: Boston. p. 602.

Image courtesy of Library of Congress

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Evening Star profile on Mrs. Mary Gregory, president of Frederick Douglass Memorial Historical Association (11 Feb, 1973)

ES_FDMHA article from 11 Feb, 1973

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VIDEO: Dr. Ira Berlin on Frederick Douglass’ early years in Fell’s Point, Nov. 9, 2017

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