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Douglass in Britain (1) : Frederick Douglass, the American runaway slave turned Abolitionist, spent some of his happiest days in Britain.
Douglass in Britain
Part one

Based on ‘The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass from 1817 to 1882, Written by Himself’.

Frederick Douglass escaped slavery in Maryland, and became one of America’s leading Abolitionists. Gently forgiving but firm of purpose, Douglass was a champion not only of Abolition but of freedom everywhere, suspicious of communism, committed to national sovereignty and free markets. And in 1845, he instantly fell in love with the British.

THE publication of his memoirs caused a storm that in 1845 led Frederick Douglass (as he put it) ‘to seek a refuge in monarchical England, from the dangers of Republican slavery’.* The chief concern was that his old master, Captain Auld, might reclaim his ‘property’, for Frederick was technically a runaway slave still.

Douglass landed in Liverpool on August 16th, and was shown as a tourist round Eaton Hall, the Cheshire residence of the Marquess of Westminster. He recalled with amusement the sour faces of his fellow Americans when he entered the same grand doors as they did, and was politely waited on by the same white servants.

He paid a visit to foggy Ireland, where in a dreamlike state he experienced sharing a cab, a hotel, a dinner-table or a church pew with smiling, courteous locals. Returning to England, he was immediately again struck by ‘the entire absence of everything that looks like prejudice against me, on account of the colour of my skin’.

* That is, ‘republican’ in the sense of anti-monarchist. Politically, Douglass was a lifelong member of the Republican Party in the USA, which historically has been at the forefront of racial equality campaigning from the days of Douglass to Martin Luther King and beyond.

Based on ‘The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass from 1817 to 1882, Written by Himself’.

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Modern History (138) Abolition of Slavery (14) Frederick Douglass (2) Thomas Clarkson (1) Victorian Era (61) History (405)

Picture: © Jeff Buck, Geograph. Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0. View original
Eaton Hall in Cheshire, a seat of the Dukes Westminster (at the time when Douglass visited, Richard Grosvenor was ‘only’ a Marquess, the dukedom being conferred in 1874). This view is from the Dragon Garden, which in Douglass’s day was the Italian Garden - Edward Lutyens redesigned it in 1897-1898.

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