Frederick Douglass remarks on the 1888 Republican National ConventionFrederick Douglass Autograph Letter Signed. One page, 6.25" x 8", Anacostia, D.C., June 28, 1888, to "Private [James M.] Dalzell" regarding payment for eleven copies of Dalzell's autobiography. On a sheet of blue-lined paper, penned in brown ink perpendicular to the lines. The letter comes with a copy of Private Dalzell's book and a poem manuscript signed by Dalzell. The letter reads in full:
"I enclose herewith a Post Office order in your favor six dolls in payment for Eleven copies of your Book. I am just home from the National Republican Convention at Chicago and have not had time to read your Autobiography. One week in this Chicago business has damaged my health more than six months work would have done at home. Truly yours."
The "Chicago business" that Douglass refers to which damaged his health certainly included a speech he gave on the first day of the Republican convention, June 19, 1888. The chairman of the party introduced Douglass to the assembled delegates prior to that speech, "Gentlemen of the Convention: I have the honor to present to you a man who needs no introduction, our old friend, Fred Douglass." According to the published proceedings of the convention, Douglass said in part, "I had the misfortune last night to speak to a vast audience in the Armory, a little below here or above here, and broke my voice so that I feel wholly unable to address you, any more than to express my thanks to you for the cordial welcome, the earnest call you have given me to this platform. I have only one word to say, and it is this: That I have great respect for a certain quality that I have seen distinguished in the Democratic party. It is the fidelity to its friends its faithfulness to those whom it has acknowledged as its masters for the last forty years. They were faithful - I mean the Democrats were faithful - to the slave-holding class during the existence of slavery. They were faithful before the war. They were faithful during the war. . . . I believe that the Republican party will prove itself equally faithful to its friends, and those friends during the war were men with black faces. . . . Let us remember these black men now stripped of their constitutional right to vote for the grand standard-bearer whom you will present to the country. Leave these men no longer to wade to the ballot box through blood but extend over them the arm of this Republic, and make their pathway to the ballot box as straight and as smooth and as safe as any other citizen's. Be not deterred from duty by the cry of 'bloody shirt.' Let that shirt wave so long as blood shall be found upon it. A government that can give liberty in its constitution ought to have power to protect liberty in its administration. I will not take up your time. I have got my thought before you. I speak in behalf of the millions who are disfranchised to-day. I thank you."
At this convention, one of Kentucky's twenty-six delegates cast his vote for Douglass, the first time a black American received a vote for president at a major political party convention. It was done as a singular honor for Douglass, though he received no votes on the remaining ballots. Benjamin Harrison won the nomination on June 25. After his election as president on November 6, 1888, Harrison appointed Frederick Douglass as U.S. Chargé d'Affaires to Santo Domingo and Minister Resident/Consul General to Haiti, residing at Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Douglass, a man who knew Lincoln personally, is quoted in Benjamin Harrison by Charles W. Calhoun (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2005, 117) as saying about Harrison, "To my mind, we never had a greater President."
Douglass wrote this letter from his home in the Anacostia area of Washington, D.C. From 1877 until his death in 1895, he lived there in a brick house which he named Cedar Hill. In 1988, his home at 1411 W Street, S.E., was designated the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.
Included with the letter is a copy of Private Dalzell's autobiography (not one of those sent to Douglass), Private Dalzell His Autobiography, Poems and Comic War Papers Sketch of John Gray, Washington's Last Soldier, etc., "A Centennial Souvenir," 242 pages, 5" x 8". Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1888. Illustrated. Original blue cloth binding, ex-lib, covers soiled. Slight tear at upper edge of first flyleaf. Slight wear at spine. Rubber stamped on the title page "Illinois / Commandery / of the / Loyal Legion." Bookplate affixed inside front cover indicates this copy was "Presented to the Commandery by Capt. George M. Lanahan," Chicago, July 1, 1891. In this book, Pvt. Dalzell includes excerpts from some of his speeches, including the one he delivered in Cincinnati on October 27, 1887, the First Grand Army Day, with veterans present, mentioning Douglass on page 164: "I was summoned here to deliver an address, only on Monday morning last, and I have not prepared one, and I would do as Frederick Douglass used to say to his audience, I will try to give you back, ladies and gentlemen, as good as you give, and if I get something good from you, I will send it back to you, and if I do not, I won't."
Part three of the book is devoted to Revolutionary War veteran John Gray whom Pvt. Dalzell calls his hero. Dalzell writes that he remembers seeing Gray at Fourth of July celebrations. Before he began to do extensive research on Gray, who had volunteered to fight after his father was killed at White Plains, he consulted "the opinions of many of the most distinguished men in the Nation." The seventh name (on page 197) in the list of thirty-four governors, generals, and politicians, as well as former President Hayes and future President Harrison, a listing not in alphabetical order, is Frederick Douglass.
Accompanying Douglass' letter to Dalzell and the private's autobiography is a Manuscript Fair Copy Signed "J. M. Dalzell," two pages, 8.5' x 14", front and verso. Titled "'The Blue and Gray' of 1867/as revised May 30, 1916 by author of both / J.M. Dalzell / 'Private Dalzell.'" Five stanzas of eight lines each. Folds. Fine condition. Until the National Holiday Act of 1971 made Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, the last Monday in May, it was celebrated on May 30th. Pvt. Dalzell's 1867 poem rejected the idea of the United States honoring the memory of both Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. He had written, in part "So no more let us hear of the Gray / The symbol of Treason and Shame, / We pierced it with bullets, away! / Or will pierce it with bullets again / . . . Of the Rebels who sleep in the Gray / Our silence is fitting alone / But we cannot afford them a bay / Of sorry, a tear, or a moan, / Let Oblivion seal up their graves / Of Treason, Disgrace and Defeat." In this 1916 signed "revised" copy , Dalzell begins, referring to his original version: "The song of Hate is changed today / To sorrow's sweet refrain / As reverently we came to pay / Our homage to our slain. / Their dust, commingled where they fell / In Battle's fierce array- / the Very angels cannot tell / Which was the Blue or Gray!" He ends with, "For cowards, only, hate the Dead, / Or evil speak today. / Beneath the Flag now overspread / Above the Blue and Gray."
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