FREDERICK DOUGLASS: DEAR SIR:— . . .
I have recently read "Uncle Tom." What a book! It is, in its line, the wonder of wonders. How its descriptions stir the blood, indeed almost make it leap out of the heart! What delineations of characters—St. Clare and Legree, extremes of slaveholders. While the latter is a fit representative of the system of the pit, the former shows that not even slaveholding itself can blot out every whit of whatsoever is good in the human heart. Thank God for this little space wherein one vivifying ray may enter!
Uncle Tom was a good soul, thoroughly and perfectly pious. Indeed, if any man had too much piety, Uncle Tom was that man. I confess to more of "total depravity." More shame to me, possibly, but nevertheless, such is the fact. My non-resistance is that of the Douglass, Parker, and Phillips school. I believe, as you do, that it is not light the slaveholder wants, but fire, and he ought to have it. I do not advocate revenge, but simply, resistance to tyrants, if need be, to the death.
The religious conversation between the slave-traders, on the 102nd and 3rd pages, is a capital thing. Why do you not copy it?—How it tells upon the miserable spittle-licking religionists of the present day; who, as Tom Loker has it, are running up a bill all their lives with the devil, calculating to sneak out when pay time comes. Such religion is "p'ison mean,"—it is "dog meanness."
The story of the Quadroon girl, second book, thirty-fourth chapter, exceeds anything that I have ever read, in all that is soul-searching and thrilling. Indeed, the book is marvellous for its dramatic power, and I do not wonder that cheap editions are now being called for throughout the Northern States.
I have one regret, with regard to the book, and that is that the chapter favoring colonization was ever written. I do not, however, apprehend so much harm from it, as some others seem to anticipate. Many of the bad features of that chapter, are somewhat modified by the admission, on the 302nd page, of the right of the colored people to meet and mingle in this country—to rise by their individual worth, and without distinction of caste or color; and that they have not only the rights of the common men here, but more than these, the rights of an injured race for reparation; and still further, that those who deny this right to rise without distinction of caste or color, and in particular to rise here, are false to their own professed principles of human equality.
I have no objection to the Christianization of Africa. God speed the missionaries who go thither for so high and holy purpose—Those also, be they white or colored, who go to build republics upon her shores, go to perform a work, great, grand, and glorious—God speed them also. Liberia is a pygmy, and cannot be more. Great men could as soon grow up and flourish in Greenland, as on that part of the Guinea coast, where these colonists have settled.
As to the talk about African nationality, this is sheer nonsense if by African nationality is meant a nation composed entirely of pure Africans. Nations worthy of the name, are only produced by a fusion of races. If Americans had less prejudice, they could read history more clearly. Whence the Romans! The Magyars! The English! The Americans! The latter, at least, notwithstanding they roll up their eyes, and go into pretended fits, at the mere mention of amalgamation, are, of all the races, the most amalgamated under the sun; and, as a matter of course—the most energetic and powerful. Indeed, fusion of races seems to be a trait, distinctive of Americans. The shades of night scarce gather round them, ere they (the Americans) seek amalgamation with even the very race which they affect most to despise. Talk of the "instincts of nature"—the hypocrites!
That the bona fide African race has peculiarities, I admit; and I admit, farther, that if these peculiarities are drawn out without intermixture, they will develop a civilization very good indeed; indeed, so good as to be almost good for nothing. The Saxons unmixed with the Romans, the Normans and the Danes were a clever people—no more—The feeble Asiatics unmixed with the Persians and the Hunns, are not Magyars. And the Jews, who are Jews still, excite next to no interest in the great world of science, literature and art. The plain truth is, God has made us of one blood, and thereby, to intermingle. We progress by adhering to this rule, we go backwards by its violation. Nations, there must be, but merely as conveniences, not to abrogate the great law of equal brotherhood.
One word more, with regard to the book. It contains some happy hits at prejudice against color. These are timely. Abolitionists, by the hundreds, are not yet rid of this soul-harrowing and heart-belittling feeling, this "blasphemy against God," and "quarrel with Jehovah." It is so easy to talk, and so comparitively easy to practice within circles not exceedingly obnoxious to the community, that many delude themselves with the belief that they are at one with the doctrine of equal brotherhood, and are even christian, when their hearts are polluted, with a prejudice which is, beyond all question, a sin meaner than which none ever rankled in the freeman's heart. Oh, for more good, great men, and more great good men. A friend wrote me, not long since, and in his letter, wished that the Lord would let Gerrit Smith live to be as old as Methuselah. Did I believe that slavery and prejudice could exist in this land nine hundred years longer, I would second the wish, and not only that Gerrit Smith should live thus long, but Lyndon King, Beriah Green, Garrison, and such as these, who have bedwarfed themselves in their age, as Milton did in his, by keeping ahead so far. These are earth's noble spirits. Thank God, the time will come if not speedily, still surely, when men shall acknowledge, by word as in their inmost soul, that righteousness is true greatness, and that there is no glory but in living in accordance with principles which are just and holy, and true.
I do not despair.
"Still achieving, still pursuing,
Let us take this to our hearts, at least, that slavery is a national sin, and nations are not fixed facts, but are continually, though may be slowly, passing away.
WILLIAM G. ALLEN
MC GRAWVILLE, N.Y., May 6, 1852.