THE PATRIOT went to work for foreigners, in an America grown strangely alien. In 1892, Frederick Douglass accepted appointment as the commissioner of the Republic of Haiti pavilion at a world's fair celebrating the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus's discovery of America. In 1492, the explorer had set foot on Haiti's island, Hispaniola; in 1893, a year late, Chicago staged the World's Columbian Exposition, perhaps the most famous of America's world's fairs, to commemorate—without a trace of doubt—the blessedness of four hundred years of the New World.
That world was not looking as good as it might to Douglass when he returned from his diplomatic post in Haiti. Values that he had struggled to make firm for half a century seemed to be slipping away. He clung to old banners and despaired as they faded and were dropped into the dust. A Republican to the death, he was aware of the party's defection from commitments to black Americans, but blind to the energy of the Populist movement that some courageous, hopeful blacks risked entering in the belief that their joint action with whites caught as they were in poverty could lead to basic economic change. Almost out of habit, Douglass campaigned for President Harrison's reelection in 1892, ignoring the Populist party. A year earlier, feeling his years, he had written to a younger black leader who also shunned the Populists, Booker T. Washington, "I fully intended to hear your lecture ... but for the state of my health," and sent the note across the city of Washington in care of his granddaughter Estelle.
Discouraged, Douglass felt all the more the imperative of keeping his