Posts Tagged “President Hayes”

Society of the Army of Cumberland invites Frederick Douglass, Esquire to Local Executive Committee meeting at the Ebbitt House; a note on misleading “memory history” of the Civil War and Dr. Douglass

Following the Union Army’s defeat of the Confederate States Army the process of Reconstruction was led by many individuals and institutions. The interconnectedness and intersectionality of Dr. Douglass to these reconstructive efforts superabounds in existing documents, reports, memoirs, ephemera, newspaper accounts and lost histories.

Major Charles R. Douglass was active in the Grand Army of the Republic. His father, Dr. Frederick Douglass, while not a direct combat veteran was a recruiter for the Union and thusly welcomed into the fraternity of organizations which sought to promote the values of liberty and brotherhood in which hundreds of thousands had made the ultimate sacrifice for.

While speculative scholarship has proliferated in recent decades, under the troubling, incomplete and selective guise, or rather paradigm, of “memory history” promoted by popular American historians, there is an unavailability of scholarship on the organizations and networks in which Dr. Douglass ran.

Communities of journalists, politicians, educators, abolitionists, suffragists, preachers and artisans are all groups known to have close associations and connections with Dr. Frederick Douglass but their presence and relevance to the complete story has yet to be told. The folks that yammer about intersectionality have no clue what they are talking about. They have buzz-fuzz cliches and phrases not scholarship and research.

In post-Civil War Washington City generals and rank officers were legion. Union veterans Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Chester Arthur and Benjamin Harrison served as American Presidents and Dr. Douglass ran with them all. You scholars already know about General Oliver Otis Howard but who else is known?

Among veterans of both the Union and the Confederate States of America Dr. Douglass commanded respect. Few historians who invoke the name of Dr. Douglass convey this truth. Memory historians have failed to uplift the fallen history.

W Street Douglassonians are not wrong in expecting lauded historians to muster more than a pseudo-psycho speculative interpretation, or rather a “memory history,” of Dr. Douglass’ April 1876 Oration Delivered on the Occasion of the Unveiling of the Freedmen’s Monument. A focus on this singular speech of Dr. Douglass again, and again and again is an incomplete history, a selective history, a convenient history, a lazy history and most importantly a misleading and dishonest history.

Until a new generation and a new collective of historians emerge to challenge the repetitive status quo of simp history half-truths and untruths will masquerade as truth.




Invitation of General Henry Clark Corbin (via Judge Arthur MacArthur), Society of the Army of the Cumberland, Headquarters Local Executive Committee to Frederick Douglass, Esquire.


Frederick Douglass Papers, Correspondence
Folder, 1879
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

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Brief Note on Josiah Henson, real-life inspiration for “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”

Josiah_Henson_bwOn page 156 of Josiah Henson’s 1878 autobiography he recalls meeting Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe in “the vicinity of Andover, Mass., in the year 1849.”

In 1789 Henson was born a a slave in Charles County, Maryland. At the time of meeting Stowe in 1849, Henson had escaped American slavery, fled to Canada and dictated his autobiography. Meeting with Stowe, Henson told her about slavery in the greater Washington area,

“She manifested so much interest in me, that I told her about the peculiarities of many slaveholders, and the slaves in the region where I had lived for forty-two years. My experiences had been more varied than those of the majority of slaves, for I was not only my master’s overseer, but a market-man for twenty-five years in the market at Washington, going there to sell the produce from my master’s plantation.”

Henson would later meet with President Rutherford B. Hayes. Their meeting had been arranged in part by Marshal Frederick Douglass.

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Academics bogard Frederick Douglass but the true power of one of America’s greatest native sons lives on in the the hearts and minds of school aged boys and girls

Courtesy of Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Institute

At last year’s Washington Antiquarian Book Fair there was an image of Frederick Douglass I had never seen before glued into a 19th century photo album. Its provenance was from a private collection somewhere in upstate New York. The seller wanted $1,000. I would rather put that towards an original copy of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. I kept it moving.

Over the past year I have become familiar with some of the locations in Washington, DC that house Douglass material from Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center to the Library of Congress to the National Archives to the Washingtoniana Division of the DC Public Library. Beyond the city limits there are Douglass materials in special collections at the University of Rochester, the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, and elsewhere. One of theses places elsewhere is Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Institute which has material I have never seen before in all my previous reading and research.

No doubt the academics love themselves some Frederick Douglass. But the true eternal power of his life will always be renewed and best honored in the hearts and minds of young school aged boys and girls coming up in communities from Maryland’s Eastern Shore to Rochester to Baltimore to Washington, DC to the rural hamlets down south in Alabama and Georgia who for the first team discover and find inspiration in one of America’s greatest native sons.

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Rutherford B. Hayes speaks with “Fred[erick] Douglass” and Rev. James Preston Poindexter “on the Southern question” [Feb. 18, 1877]

Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Frederick Douglass United States Marshal for the District of Columbia days after he was inaugurated the 19th President. Hayes was the first to have a Presidential Center, or Library. It is located in Fremont, Ohio.

The folks there have been gracious in helping to understand the relationship and respect that Douglass and Hayes had for each other. Keeping a daily journal, historians have been able to glean insights into Hayes thinking on certain decisions of his presidency.

All five volumes of his Diary and Letters are searchable HERE.

On pg. 417, vol. 3 is this entry,

February 18. Sunday. [1877]- The indications still are that I am to go to Washington. I talked yesterday with Fred Douglass and Mr. Poindexter, both colored, on the Southern question. I told them my views. They approved. Mr. Douglass gave me many useful hints about the whole subject. My course is a firm assertion and maintenance of the rights of the colored people of the South according to the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, coupled with a readiness to recognize all Southern people, without regard to past political conduct, who will now go with me heartily and in good faith in support of these principles.

* Special thanks to Nan Card for the early help and support! *

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Marshal Frederick Douglass accompanies “Queen of Staccato,” Madame Selika, to perform at the White House for President and First Lady Hayes [Wash Post, November 14, 1878]

In November 1878, Marshal Fred Douglas, a man of refinement, enjoyed an evening at the White House with President Hayes and First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes. Although Douglass, while serving as Marshal, reportedly stepped down from the ceremonial role of introducing guests at formal functions he was in frequent social company with President Hayes from Howard University to the White House.

Here’s an account of that evening from the Washington Post

Madame Selika at the White House

Last evening by appointment, Madame Selika, the wonderful colored prima donna, called at the White House, accompanied by Marshal Douglass and a few friends, and was introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Hayes. After a few moment’ conversation and rest, the madame sang “Staccato Polka,” from Meulder; “The Last Rose of Summer,” Ernani Involvami, Verdi; Ave Maria, Millard. Mr. Williams, baritone by request, sand “Far Away,” by Bliss. The several pieces showed to great advantage the remarkable power, sweetness and versatility of the madame’s voice and accomplishments, the Staccato Polka especially proving her worthy of her title as “Queen of Staccato.” Each piece was heartily applauded. The singers were afterwards warmly congratulated by Mr. and Mrs. Hayes.

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“The Picture Presentation at Howard University” attended by President Hayes and Marshal Frederick Douglass [NY Times, February 1878]

Courtesy United States Senate

History has been rather unsympathetic to Rutherford B. Hayes. I get it and understand. But in research I’ve found, in President Hayes, a man emerging that is more layered, complex, and empathetic than history has portrayed. I am not a credentialed historian, but I have approached this effort as a historian as detective gathering evidence, as any journalist would do. Some of the information I’ve found on President Hayes shines new, and in some ways, contradictory light on our 19th President.

The below New York Times article, written by Sara Jane Lippincott under the nom de plume “Grace Greenwood,” describes an evening at Howard University where emotions were thick in the air. [ED Note: This 1,500 word excerpt is part of Greenwood’s larger “Views on Passing Events” column. The night was covered a week before by the New York Times with a much smaller article.]

The remarks of President Hayes and Marshal Douglass are quoted in places, but more directly paraphrased. Even so, the remarks of Marshal Douglass are stirring.

On Thursday last I accompanied a party of friends to Howard University, where we had some very interesting exercises. The ostensible occasion was the presentation to the college of a fine large engraving of Carpenter’s picture, but really it was a sort of memorial service for Abraham Lincoln – occurring as it did, a day or two after his birthday. The President and his amiable wife were present, with Marshal Douglass, Col. T. W. Higginson, the munificent Mrs. Thompson, that lady bountiful and beautiful and a few lesser lights of politics, literature, and patriotism. The speech of Frederick Douglass did not unbeseem his old reputation for eloquence, wit, and honest good sense. His talk to the students was paternal in spirit, and on the whole, cheery in tone, though unsparing in admonition and rebuke. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” and he did lay on right lustily. It was a plain talk, with all harshness and bitterness taken out of it by the genial humor so peculiar to that orator – and by the tact which caused him to use the pronoun “we” instead of “you.”

Col. Higginson told some wonderful stories of his war experiences in the South – of the solemn rejoicing of the negroes over the emancipation proclamation, which came to them like a new gospel, let down from the New Jerusalem. The freedmen of Georgia at that time would scarcely have echoed the doubts, the “buts,” and the “ifs” of Mr. Stephens as to the wisdom and beneficence of the act which metamorphosed them from chattels into men, and if hard after-experience has caused those poor, dispersed plantation laborers, those disbanded black volunteers to grow disheartened with their “free, unhoused condition,” and feel to hanker after the flesh-pots of Egypt, if they find that to “call no man master” is, after all, a costly luxury, that to sow ballots is to reap bullets, and that “the wages of politics is death,” up here the race is as strong in faith, if not in position, and as much enamored for freedom, if not of Republicanism, as ever. They still believe liberty is a good thing – they still sing, “We are rising,” and believe it, though the yeast of the Freedmen’s Bureau has given out. When I looked around on the African portion of the audience – representatives of every shade of that unfortunate people who have seemed to us born during an eclipse of Divine favor – when I noticed them, the students especially, listening eagerly and seriously to words both of sympathy and reproof – the darkest face touched with the mysterious light of thought and aspiration, and set with a brave resolve to struggle against the love of idleness and pleasure – the real “curse of Ham” – I felt that all the honest questioning in the mind of Mr. Stephens as to the wisdom and righteousness of Mr. Lincoln’s act, was abundantly answered.

If that act was a military necessity, considered in the councils of the President it was also a need of humanity, settled and decreed n the counsels of the Almighty. If the justice was compulsory, it was Divine coercion. The noble eloquence – the very appearance of an ex-slave on the same platform with the President of the United States, was a sufficient answer to the doubts of the ex-Confederate. I remember when Marshal Douglass was a young fugitive, in deadly fear of Marshals – when if he dared to show his face in Washington, or even in New-York or Boston, he was liable to be arrested and taken back to Maryland, “With gyves upon his wrists,”

“Grace Greenwood”

I remember when hapless, and perhaps overzealous, philanthropists were imprisoned in the horrible old jail in Judiciary-square for helping such “discontented, demoralized darkies” as he out of bondage. I remember when between the Capitol and Georgetown was a slave prison; I remember how once a young slave girl escaped from that prison and took to the long bridge, hoping, perhaps, to hide herself in the woods about Arlington, but, being chased and headed off, leaped from the bridge into the Potomac and found there presently Patrick Henry’s alternative for “liberty.” About the bravest thing which our President has done since appointing Mr. Douglass Marshal of the District, and standing by his man, and one of the best things he has ever done, was to make this visit to the “Black University,” just at the time when it was being assailed. The present head of the institution, Dr. Patton, a man of rare intellect and culture and noble character, deserved this mark of respect and confidence – as I believe do all colored Professors. The words the President addressed to the students were wise, timely, and generous. As I could not wholly accept the assertion of Mr. Stephens that “among the whole Southern people there is not one who would change the state of things, resubjugate the colored man, and put him in the same state he was in before the war,” I cannot believe with President Hayes that “no one will deny the wisdom, the righteousness, and the grandeur of Abraham Lincoln’s act of emancipation,” but I honor the man for saying so, if he believed so, and for saying it so strongly. Mr. Garrison, the rugged Luther of these latter days could not have more stoutly championed the act for which we are all made to feel that the august shade of Lincoln is on trial to-day.

If the President by this visit gave happiness and encouragement to hearts not overfilled as the best with the wine of gladness, the presence of the President’s wife was received as an absolute benediction, her face as a soft light in a shadowy place. It is a most womanly and gracious presence – radiating gentleness and courtesy – a face whose character is best expressed by the word “lovely.” It was touching to note how, as Mr. Douglass pictured with master-strokes sad scenes before the war, and Col. Higginson, pathetic scenes during the war, her large dark eyes, “Sweetest eyes were ever seen,” mirrored every phase of feeling and often filled with sympathetic tears. The President’s wife may be a little quant and old-fashioned, but she is good – (perhaps, simple goodness is about as quant and old-fashioned a thing as we can see nowadays) – and when a woman has all the cardinal virtues, the coiffure is of little account – when she was the “ornament of a meek and quiet spirit” her “price is above rubies,” and diamonds are at a discount.

The University people received most gratefully the gift of Mr. Carpenter, looking with tender, not fault-finding, eyes, on the sad face of their great deliverer, and on the faces of his great associates. Since the original painting has hung in its place in the Capitol, I have been to see it, and trying to forget what all others have said, have made up my own humble estimate. I think it has merits of which the common people are perhaps the best judges. It has an air of rigid and homely fidelity, in its inception and execution, and in the portraits of that remarkable group, in all details of the picture. The fact that it was painted under the eye of Lincoln and his counselors, that the real costumes however commonplace, the customary attitudes, however ungraceful, of the men, all the actual accessories of the scene, were faithfully copied and preserved, certainly gives to it an exceptional value. The portraits are unquestionable likeness – that of Lincoln as his saddest, wannest, and weariest perhaps, but good, very good, as Lincoln portraits go; that of Seward is better; that of Stanton best. I do not like the color of some of the faces, and for that reason prefer the engraving to the painting. Mr. Carpenter was an absolute devout of Abraham Lincoln, and painted this picture in a most loving and loyal sprit. I think all that can be seen in his work, and, perhaps, it is not the worst atmosphere a picture of the kind can have. I have noticed that the painting has been much more severely criticized now that it has come to us as a gift than it was some four years ago when it was exhibited here and we understood that Government was negotiating for its purchase. I may be wrong, but I attribute much of this ungracious and harsh criticism to the change of feeling toward our sometimes foes, and a greater change of feeling toward our sometimes allies – toward both people conquered and the people emancipated by the means of that important aggressive document in the hand of that central figure of that picture – a light weapon, lightly held, but of 40-thunderbolt power. 

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Washington Sentinel supports appointment of Fred Douglass as Marshal of the District, [Saturday, March 17, 1877]

Newspapering in Washington, D.C. in the 1870s was a make or break proposition. Sifting through the listings of papers in the Boyd’s City Directories for the decade between 1870 and 1880 there is a marked increase in the number of rags on the streets of Washington, D.C. but also a great fluctuation year to year with old papers dying and new ones emerging.

It was during the 1870s that The New National Era sprang to life and suffered a premature death. It was in 1877 that The Washington Post first appeared.

The range of city newspapers – dailies, weeklies, and monthlies — during this decade offer disparate editorials and reporting guided by the perspectives and ideologies  of varying political parties, social reform causes, and in the case of The Washington Sentinel an ethnic-based constituency; German-Americans.

Aligning with the Democrats in advocating for a “non-intervention policy in the South by the President”, The Sentinel supported Frederick Douglass’ appointment as United States Marshal for the District of Columbia proclaiming to those who marginalized Douglass, “Down with your aristocratic notions, and up with the colored brother, who has always been so dear to you!”

From The Washington Sentinel, March 17, 1877…

Marshal Fred. Douglass

The President has appointed Frederick Douglass, the well-known colored orator, and who stands at the head of his race in this country, Marshal of the District of Columbia. This position was lately occupied by Grant’s brother-in-law, Sharpe, and is considered the best in the District. Indeed, it is ranked immediately after that of a Cabinet officer, and for the last forty years the District Marshal has, at levees at the White House, been in the habit of exercising functions of a Grand Chamberlain, such as introducing visitors to the President, etc.

When it is considered that but for the colored people the Republican party would be nowhere, the appointment of Douglass must be regarded as a great stroke of policy. The intended non-intervention policy in the South by the President might have been considered by many – the New York Sun included – as inimical to the colored race. But Hayes certainly has by that appointment at one blow destroyed all such suppositions. He has out-done Grant entirely.

When Douglass returned as one of the St. Domingo Commissioners to Washington, Grant invited all the Commissioners to dinner — except him. For social equality has never as yet been accorded by the leading Radicals to the negroes, and to that fact Pinchback must ascribe to his non-conformation more than to anything else.

The National Republican says in regard to the appointment:

“The business men seem dissatisfied and the members of the bar are almost unanimously against it, and will send up a delegation before the Senate committee to show cause why Mr. Douglass should not be confirmed. * * * The claim that he is too theoretical. * * * Chief Justice Carrter remarked yesterday, “The Marshal of the District should be a man thoroughly practical and business-like.”

Well, was Mr. Sharpe, who during a whole year never was eight days present at the court-house, and entirely left matters to his deputy, more “practical and business like” than Douglass?

That will not do! Douglass is as good as any of you! And what becomes of your Civil Rights bill? Where is your love for the negro, without whose assistance none of you would be in office? Down with your aristocratic notions, and up with the colored brother, who has always been so dear to you!

The National Republican further says that “Mr. Douglass need to not necessarily be an adjunct for the receptions at the White House.”

Why, brother Murtagh? Is not Fred Douglass as good and respectable as you and your friends, Shepherd, Babcock, Belknap, etc Is that the language of a Republican organ?

Frederick Douglass was once a slave. So was the present Grand Vizier of Turkey, Edhem Pasha, whose biography we publish to-day in our foreign news column. The “former state of servitude” ought to have no weight with our Republican brethren!

In short we believe that President Hayes is sincere in “wiping out the color line, and the sooner the Radical aristocratic ladies and gentlemen acquiesce in that policy, the better will be for them. We hope that our Democratic Senators will not commit the blunder of voting against that appointment. If Mr. Hayes desires to put colored men into positions formerly occupied y Grant’s relatives and friend he will only have given another proof that he is earnestly in favor of civil service reform. Besides the President ought to have the privilege of selecting his own household – and the District Marshal almost belongs to it – independent of race, color and previous condition of servitude!”

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Frederick Douglass & President Hayes speak at Howard University, [NY Times, Feb. 16, 1878]

Forget what you’ve heard, or rather haven’t heard or yet read. Frederick Douglass was a Howard University man through and through. Douglass was not just a lion, he was a Bison.

Douglass raised funds and donated his money to Howard. He received an honorary doctorate from the university. He testified before Congress advocating for the university. While in Washington Douglass got around town from City Hall to the White House to the US Capitol to local meetings on District Voting Rights. Throughout his various commitments to family, lecturing, and political appointments, from 1871 until his death in 1895 Douglass was closely affiliated with the college on the hilltop. His relationship and decades of service to Howard University is without question one of the most important dynamics of his lasting legacy in Washington, D.C.


Washington, Feb. 15. – On the occasion, yesterday, of the presentation of a steel engraving of Carpenter’s [ED: Francis Bicknell Carpenter] picture of the “Signing of the Emancipation Proclamation” to the Howard University, Frederick Douglass, among others, made a speech, in which he said: “Among the faults of his people were their self-indulgence, love of ease, and improvidence. They must learn to spend their earnings judiciously. If one can’t get up, he will be helped down. They had a fair chance to get up. He was on his way to Congress and he thought that if the negro could stand Congress, Congress out to stand the negro. The colored men had been forced up by abnormal conditions, but they were coming up gradually by their own exertions.

President Hayes made a speech, in which he said:

“I quite agree with all that has been said, yet it occured to me that Mr. Douglass made a modest estimate of his race when he said: “They don’t build up; they don’t build the domes you see;’ but who did build them? Such men as Adams and Sumner made their fame by their speeches under that dome and the speech your colored brother made made us is better than making domes; but that is not my message. I would say the wisdom, the righteousness, and the grandeur of Abraham Lincoln’s act of emancipation no man will deny. That is has conferred infinite blessings on our country, on both races, and on the world, very few question. This estimate of the act and of its results will not be changed by the good conduct or the bad conduct of either race; but it is said that the greatness of the blessing conferred on the colored race depends on their conduct. What they most need is what Burns calls “The glorious privilege of being independent.” What this requires is the willingness to labor, and the prudence and self-denial to save the fruits of labor. My young colored friends, let this, then, be among your good resolutions: “I will work and I will save, to the end I may become independent.”

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The District Judiciary, 1881, Marshal Frederick Douglass [Boyd’s City Directory – Washington, DC]


Criminal Court – District Court – Common Law Court – Equity Court

Chief Justice – David Kellog Cartter  (Appointed chief justice by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.)

Associate Justice – Alexander Burton Hagner,  (Appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1879.)

Associate Justice – Andrew Wylie (Appointed by President Lincoln in 1863, confirmed by the Senate in 1864.)

Associate Justice – Walter Smith Cox (Appointed by Hayes in 1879.)

Associate Justice – Charles Pinckney James (Appointed by Hayes in 1879.)

Associate Justice – Arthur MacArthur (Appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1870.)

Clerk – R. J. Meigs

US Marshal – Frederick Douglass

US Deputy Marshal – L P Williams

US District Attorney – H. H. Wells

Asst. US District Attorney – H. H. Wells, Jr.

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Check out Ghosts of DC’s post: “Election Day 1876”

Ghosts of DC is one of our compatriots. Check out their post “Election Day 1876: Shakespeare at the National, Real Estate Listings and Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel J. Tilden” HERE.

To nearly every modern historian the election of Rutherford B. Hayes marks the end of Reconstruction with the final withdrawal of Federal troops from South Carolina and Louisiana. Everyone likes to dump on President Hayes, including President Obama (and reportedly President Reagan before him). But in studying Hayes I’ve found that, as is true with anything and everything, there are nuances and complexities to the man who appointed Frederick Douglass US Marshal of the District of Columbia and stuck with him even against a groundswell of support calling for Douglass’ removal.

For those out there asking about the “Exodusters” question vis-à-vis Hayes and Douglass … we will get back to you soon.

In the meantime, check out our friend’s post HERE

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