Frederick Douglass: Freedom's Voice, 1818-1845

By Gregory P. Lampe | Go to book overview

Chapter Four
Oratory of Power and Eloquence: From Local Notoriety to Regional Prominence, January - August 1842

AFTER COMPLETING the tumultuous lecture tour of Rhode Island in December 1841, Frederick Douglass returned to Massachusetts a seasoned veteran of the abolitionist crusade and an emerging leader within the anti- slavery movement. His probationary period as a lecturer had expired in November 1841, and his growing importance to the movement was undeniable. Everywhere he went, he attracted large and enthusiastic audiences and infused excitement into the crusade against slavery. In January 1842 he was employed by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society as a full-time lecturer. For the next eight months, he traveled extensively throughout the Bay State delivering his antislavery message. His rhetorical activities included impressive speaking performances at county, state, regional, and national antislavery meetings, as well as a solo lecture tour of Massachusetts. In addition, he played a crucial role in a lecture tour of Cape Cod, in which he traveled with William Lloyd Garrison, Henry C. Wright, and George Bradburn. In all of these activities, Douglass strengthened his standing as a powerful voice in the struggle for immediate abolition.

Throughout this period, Douglass became increasingly Garrisonian in his approach to abolitionism. In November 1841 he had spoken in favor of compensating slaveholders for freeing their slaves. During a speech in May 1842, he reversed his position and subscribed to the Garrisonian view of no compensation to slave owners for the emancipation of their slaves. During his first ten months as an agent for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, he had supported the slaves' efforts to assert their liberty through the use of force. In June 1842 he endorsed the Garrisonian principle of

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