The Black Abolitionist Papers - Vol. 1

By C. Peter Ripley | Go to book overview

31.
William Wells Brown to Frederick Douglass 20 December 1850

Fugitive slaves William and Ellen Craft were driven from Boston by slave catchers in November 1850. They arrived in Liverpool in early December. Their old friend and colleague William Wells Brown, who was then lecturing in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, heard that they wished to contact him and wrote the Crafts on 16 December. Without awaiting a reply, he arranged a reception for them. Illness kept Ellen in Liverpool, but William Craft joined Brown in Newcastle. Brown's 20 December letter to Frederick Douglass, written shortly before he met with William Craft, tells of their arrival in England and encloses William Craft's brief reply to Brown's 16 December invitation. Brown's efforts to assist his less experienced cohort reflects the camaraderie and cooperation that characterized relations among black abolitionists in Britain. Farrison, William Wells Brown, 179.

KINGSHEAD HOTEL
HORTLEPOOL, [ England]
Dec[ember] 20, 1850

DEAR DOUGLASS:

You will have seen that the press of this country has been unsparing in its denunciation of the "Fugitive Slave Bill." Of the many acts of cruelty and injustice committed by the America Legislature against the colored people of the United States, none has done so much to crown them with infamy, and to cause the people of this country to detest and abhor the American character, as the enactment of this new law.

It is an ancient fable, that the eruptions of Aetna were produced by the restless movements of the giant Enceladus, who was imprisoned beneath. As the monster turned on his side, or stretched his limbs, or struggled, the conscious mountain belched forth flames, fiery cinders, and red-hot lava, carrying destruction to all who dwelt upon its fertile sides.

The slave power of the United States is the imprisoned giant of the new world; and its constant struggles for more power, have and will cause eruptions of evil to the people, in comparison with which the flames, the fiery cinders, and red-hot lava of the volcano, are trivial and transitory. "The Fugitive Slave Bill," and its consequences, is the all-absorbing topic for conversation in this country.

Within the last three weeks, I have attended several meetings upon the subject of the fugitive slave bill. Sir John Fife presided at the meeting in Newcastle; in Shields, the Mayor was in the chair. The Sunderland meeting was presided over by one of the oldest and most venerated of its

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