Posts Tagged Theodore Tilton

Frederick Douglass in Paris: A visit to Lafayette’s Tomb; Patriot respect Patriot

It recently came to my attention content from this blog was instrumental in the creation of a “Frederick Douglass in the City of Lights: Walking Tour” created by Princeton University undergraduates (sophomores and juniors) with the guidance of Associate Professor of History Rhae Lynn Barnes.

Drawing largely from my posts about the friendship of Dr. Douglass and journalist-poet Theodore Tilton, the students assembled an impressive, yet abridged, multi-media guide to some of the extant locations Douglass visited while in Paris including a hotel and a cafe.

Evading, however, their scholarly attention, or rather scholarly pilferage, was the visit Douglass and Tilton reportedly made to the present-day 12th arrondissement to pay their respects to the Tomb of General Marquis de Lafayette in the rear of the private Picpus Cemetery.

A Visit to Lafayette’s Tomb

Earlier this week I took ligne 6 to Picpus, a not insignificant distance from the city center and areas where Douglass is known to have frequented in Paris.

Within the short walk down the street and around the corner to the cemetery there were several multi-story developments underway. Construction was happening on a property immediately adjacent to the cemetery while across the street from the large wooden doors to the walled-in cemetery is a Total gas station.

Arriving at the cemetery doors I found myself in the company of two Brits and their friend from Florida. We quickly confirmed our intentions to visit Lafayette’s Tomb; mine for purposes of Douglass while theirs was due an interest in the dual patriot because of his presence in the popular musical Hamilton.

Once inside, the doors closed, the sounds of traffic seemed to fade away. Before us was a pebbled patch leading beyond a house to a large grassy area leading beyond to the Picpus Cemetery to the right.

A groundskeeper kept to himself trimming and clipping a line of rose bushes. By my count a half-dozen free range chickens scurried around under foot watched closely by a rooster in the bushes.

A statue of an archangel preparing to drive a spear through the devil’s head stood by its lonesome. Due the history of the Cimetière de Picpus the sculpture is felicitous.

Once inside the cemetery the noises of nearby children playing in a school yard proved a delightful soundtrack. As I proceeded towards Lafayette’s Tomb I passed numerous graves with dates of interment predating the visit of Dr. Douglass and Theodore Tilton in the winter of 1886 – 1887.

Arriving at Lafayette’s Tomb I paused a moment to pay my respects to a man with credentials of a patriot in two countries. Any Frenchmen who names their son “George Washington Lafayette” is alright to me and mines.

Adorned with a flag-poled Star Spangled Banner and plaques from the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, Daughters of the American Revolution, the Knox Museum (“Very Revolutionary”) and a number of Old Virginia cities there were more than a couple quarters tabled on Lafayette’s Tomb.

Lingering for more than a couple moments I was taken aback with what Lafayette has meant and continues to mean to American citizens.

The decision of Dr. Douglass to visit Lafayette’s Tomb was deliberate.

Man respect man. Patriot respect patriot.

Simple as that.

All photos by Honorable William Alston-El. Copyright strictly enforced online and offline in USA, France and everywhere.

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Editor’s Note:

Special thanks and unconditional love to the Husson Family of Paris and my big brother Alexandre de Paris, an American and French patriot just like General Lafayette.

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Reported “mob” threat in Newark, New Jersey disputed by Rochester sheets, Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass known for “preaching up a new rebellion” [September 1866]

With the bicentennial celebration sweeping across the country Rutgers University recently announced the naming of their sports field in Newark for Dr. Douglass.

According to a press release, “The Rutgers Board of Governors approved a resolution naming the athletics field at Rutgers University–Newark in honor of revered 19th century civil rights pioneer Frederick Douglass. The facility, used by Rutgers-Newark men’s and women’s Scarlet Raiders teams for NCAA Division III play and practice, as well as by numerous local community groups, will be known from now on as Frederick Douglass Field.”

With thousands of research notes yet published we often wait for the impetus to share a particular item. With the announcement by Rutgers University we share a brief item which may be of interest.


UA Sept 5, 1866 _ 3-1 _ lynch mob Newark

Local History and Genealogy Department of the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County

Special dispatch to the Tribune.




During the stoppage at Newark of the train for Philadelphia with Fred. Douglass on board, squads from a crowd, which had been awaiting his coming, passed through the cars in search of him, shouting for “the damned [ni**er].”

Mr. Douglass got through safely, however. Doubtless the mob was led to expect him by information sent them from New York.

Observe how minute and circumstantial! “The Mob” actually “passed through the cars shouting for the damned [ni**er].” “Information was sent to the mob from New York.” But after all “Mr. Douglass got through safely.”

The best part of the story is not told in the Tribune‘s special. Fred Douglass did not pass through Newark at all. It appears by written correspondence published in yesterday’s Union, that he went to Philadelphia by way of Pittsburgh. And it appears by this morning’s Democrat that at the very time when the Tribune says the Newark “mob were shouting for the damned ni**er,” Mr. Douglass was preaching up a new rebellion at North Collins, Erie Co., where he stopped on his way to Pittsburgh.

We quote a North Collins letter in that paper:

Frederick Douglass, who was present during a part of the three days of the meeting, stirred the hears of the vast concourse, by one of his thrilling and impressive efforts in oratory. He warned the people of the terrible crisis now impending. The nation had been basely betrayed, and was trembling on the brink of another rebellion, far more dangerous than the preceding one, because it would now have all the prestige of the government to sustain it.

So instead of “the damned [ni**er]” being set upon by a “Copperhead mob,” the individual thus described by the Tribune was at that very time engaged in getting up “another rebellion which would have all the prestige of the Government to sustain it.” But before we let our indignation get the better of our judgement over this Newark case, let us ask precisely how there can be “another rebellion” which will “have all the prestige of THE GOVERNMENT to sustain it!”

What kind of a “rebellion” will it be? Against whom will it be directed – having “all the prestige of the Government” on its side?


Union and Advertiser (Rochester), September 5, 1866, p. 3

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“I have shed no tears,” Theodore Tilton remembers his brother from another, Frederick Douglass

Theodore Tilton c1870.jpgParis, France, March 3, 1895

My Dear Mrs. Douglass:

I infer that by this time you will have gone back from Rochester to Washington.

As to Frederick, I have already said my say. I have said it in verse.

But what I have said – now that I have said it – seems to me to be written in so intimate, so personal and so affectionate a vein, that I question the good judgement of publishing my eulogistic stanzas at the present moment.

I will not trust them even to myself.  * * *

Meanwhile, my object in this note is to say that, ever since I had the news of his death, I have been filled with every friendly emotion except one, and that is, grief, for of this sombre sensation I have felt none at all; but, on the contrary, I have experienced a strange joy and pride that he has rounded out his many years amid such universal honor, and has gone down into his grave with such a magnificent exit from this calumnious world.

I have shed no tears – pardon me for saying so – and I have therefore a more than common privilege of speech.

Please remember me to the boys and tell them to be as proud of their father as if he had been Miles Standish or Israel Putnam, or James Otis.

With kindest regards,

Theodore Tilton


In Memoriam: Frederick Douglass


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“A Career Unique,” excerpt from Theodore Tilton’s Sonnets to the Memory of Frederick Douglass

Theodore Tilton c1870.jpgHe came to Paris; and we paced the streets

As if we twain were truants out of school!

We clomb aloft where many a carven ghoul

And grinning gargoyle mocked our giddy feats;

We made a sport of sitting in the seats

Where Kings of France were wont to sit and rule!

‘A throne,’ quote he, ‘is a pretender’s stool –

For kingship is a fraud, and kings are cheats!’


He loved a hero. Nor can I forget

How with uncovered head, in awe profound

He hailed Coligny’s all-too tardy stone [2];

And how, before the tomb of Lafayette [3],

He said, ‘This place is doubly sacred ground –

This patriot had two countries for his own!’


2 Admiral de Coligny was murdered in the St. Bartholomew massacre, on the night of August 24, 1752.

3 Lafayette lies in the Picpus Cemetery, rue Picpus, Paris.



Tilton, Theodore. Sonnets to the Memory of Frederick Douglass. Paris. Brentano’s, 37 Avenue De Opera. 1895, p. 11.

Editor’s Note:

It is sometimes cited that Paul Laurence Dunbar dedicated a 546-word poem to Douglass entitled “Douglass” in his 1896 poetry collection, Lyrics of Lowly Life.

Robert Hayden, a well-known modern poet who served as the first African-American US Poet Laureate in the late 1970s, is also often mentioned for his one paragraph poem dedicated to Douglass.

The “elusiveness” of Frederick Douglass in the barely-existent field of Douglassoniana Studies is because scholars have done very little original investigative work. This is seen in the very few references in Douglassoniana to Tilton’s poetry and writings about his friendship with his brother-from-another, Fred. Philip Foner did the work.

Within days of catching word in Paris that his friend had passed Tilton composed and published a short book dedicated to the memory of his dear brother. He promptly sent it to Helen Pitts Douglass in Washington.

There are more folks alleged to be Douglass scholars that deal in speculation, conjecture, psychoanalysis, guesswork and their own genuflecting on Douglass than actual scholarship.

That said, it is clear Tilton loved Douglass as though he was his own brother. Fred was from the streets. He understood when you’re mobbing through the streets of Paris it’s better to be with your brother than on the solo mission. I know.

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