Posts Tagged Calvin Fairbank

“I do not want to go in as Fredeic[k] Douglass, but as a citizen of the United States,” radical abolitionist Rev. Calvin Fairbank recalling reception at Executive Mansion for President Lincoln’s 2nd inauguration.

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Rev. Calvin Fairbank was a radical white abolitionist who served nearly twenty years in jail across two imprisonments for aiding slave escapes.

Among radical white abolitionists John Brown was but a singular force of an expansive collective that ranged the entire country. Due Brown’s radical action and close association with Frederick Douglass he has maintained a presence in our contemporary historic consciousness. A play portraying Douglass and Brown was recently staged at the Anacostia Playhouse.

Orating, writing, editing and breathing abolition for more than two decades on the public stage Dr. Douglass accumulated associations and friendships with thousands upon thousands of fellow reformists.

Some were extreme. Not just John Brown.

Rev. Calvin Fairbank was imprisoned in Kentucky for aiding slaves in an attempted escape. He was pardoned. Imprisoned again for aiding slaves in an attempted escape. Nearly did twenty.

Dr. Douglass, a radical newspaperman, published letters from Rev. Fairbank in his newspaper.

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President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Library of Congress.

After his pardon, Fairbank and his wife traveled to Washington City to attend the second inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln. In the assemblage at Washington City was Dr. Frederick Douglass.

Following President’s Lincoln Second Inaugural Address Rev. Fairbank, along with his wife and thousands of Washingtonians, attended a reception at the Executive Mansion.

In 1890 Rev. Fairbank condensed nearly twelve hundred pages of autobiography into a workable five hundred pages in which he offers an additional footnote to the well told interaction between Dr. Douglass and President Lincoln:

[B]efore the fall of Richmond, March 30, when we took a steamer for “Washington, after some most magnificent demonstrations of loyalty to us, to the United States,
and to God by that people who for two hundred years had been crushed under the heel of despotism.

There were several large Africo-American churches there which were unable to hold more than a small minority of the people who crowded every place where we appeared. The white rebels avoided us.

President Lincoln’s Inauguration.

March 4th, 1865, was a most horrid morning. Rain fell in broken sheets, driven by the wind; but people came just the same, moving toward the Capitol until twelve M. The mud in Pennsylvania Avenue was hub deep — a canal of batter; and I stood with my good wife from nine a.m. until twelve M. in front of the great platform, standing on bricks as the rain dashed upon a thousand umbrellas.

Without regard to rain, we took our positions near the front platform where the great event was to occur, Mrs. Fairbank standing each foot on two bricks where,
protected by three umbrellas, we remained three hours, until twelve M., when the immortal pageant burst from the columns of the Capitol.

The rain had ceased, the clouds hastened to their chambers; and nature assumed an air of joy and serenity rarely witnessed on that day.

Then the short, pointed, brave declaration of the mind of the Chief Executive of the Nation — “DROP FOR DROP: LASH FOR LASH.”

The Levee

At the levee that night thirty thousand people passed in and out of the White House.

At one time a throng was pressing the door of the room where the President received his guests, and Frederic[k] Douglass among others pressed to the door, when “Hold on!” — and others kept passing in.

“Hold on! You can’t go in now. It is not convenient.”

“How is that? I see others passing in.”

Some one interfered, — “This is Frederic[k] Douglass.”

When Douglass, — “Never mind. I do not want to go in as Frederic Douglass; but as a citizen of the United States.”

Here comes the great man of the age, President Lincoln, with his long arm extended over heads and through the crowd. — “WHY, HOW DO YOU DO, FREDERIC[K]? COME RIGHT IN!”

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SOURCE:

Rev. Calvin Fairbank During Slavery Times: How he “Fought the Good Fight” to Prepare “The Way.” (Edited from His Manuscript.) R. & R. McCabe & Co. Publishers, Chicago. 1890.

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