H. Ford Douglass
Douglass, a black man, was for more than a decade before
the Civil War an eloquent and outspoken opponent of slavery and a professional
acquaintance of Frederick Douglass. Edwin S. Redkey, editor of A
Grand Army of Black Men (Cambridge University Press, 1992), writes
that, "Hezekiah Ford Douglass, a preacher from Chicago, joined a
white regiment in July of 1862. His Unit fought in Tennessee and Louisiana.
Later, he would be sent to recruit a black regiment in Louisiana, and
eventually he was promoted to be captain of an Artillery Unit battery
from Kansas." During the late 1850s, Douglass appeared several times
in Wisconsin to speak on behalf of the antislavery cause.
- From Minutes of the State Convention of the Colored
Citizens of Ohio, Convened at Columbus, January 15, 16, 17, and 18th,
1851, E. Glover Printer, 1851 (Courtesy Kevin-Dier-Zimmel)In 1851
On motion of H. Ford Douglass, that it is the opinion of this convention,
that no colored man can consistently vote under the United States Constitution,
John Brown, of Franklin, moved its indefinite postponement, whereupon,
Mr. H. F. Douglass made the following remarks.
Mr. Chairman, I am in favor of the adoption of the resolution. I hold,
sir, that the Constitution of the United States is pro-slavery, considered
so by those who framed it, and construed to that end ever since its
adoption. It is well known that in 1787, in the Convention that framed
the Constitution, there was considerable discussion on the subject of
slavery. South Carolina and Georgia refuse to come into the union, without
the convention would allow the continuation of the Slave Trade for twenty
years. According to the demands of these two States, the convention
submitted to that guilty contract, and declared that the Slave Trade
should not be prohibited prior to 1808. Here we see them engrafting
into the Constitution, a classic legalizing and protecting one of the
vilest systems of wrong ever invented by the cupidity and avarice of
man. And by virtue of that agreement, our citizens went to the shores
of Africa, and seized upon the rule of barbarian, as he strolled unconscious
of impending danger, amid his forests, as free as the winds that beat
on his native shores. Here we see them dragging these bleeding victims
to the slave-ship by virtues of that instrument compelling them to endure
all the horrors of the "middle passage,' until they arrived at
this asylum of western Liberty, where they were doomed to perpetual
chains. Now, I hold, in view this fact, no colored man can consistently
vote under the United States Constitution. That instrument also provides
for the return of fugitive slaves."
In the Douglass'
Monthly, April, 1859, pp. 448-450, Frederick Douglass reported
an experience with a Democrat and opponent of the antislavery cause
in Janesville, Wisconsin, while in the company of H. F. Douglass.
- On January 8, 1863, one week after Lincoln's
Emancipation Proclamation, Douglass sent a letter to Frederick Douglass
for inclusion in the February, 1863, Douglass Monthly. (Courtesy
My wife sent me this morning the Monthly for December containing
your appeal to England to "hands off' in this fearful conflict
for freedom. It was indeed gratifying to me who have always felt more
than a friendly interest in you and your eloquent and manly words
of an admonition to the Old Saxon mother State to give no moral or
legal countenance to the claims of the impious Confederate States
of America in their attempt to set up a Government established upon
the idea of the perpetual bondage of the Negro. England has wisely
withstood every temptation to do so - Abraham Lincoln has crossed
the Rubicon and by one simple act of Justice to the slave links his
memory with immorality.
The slaves are free! How can I write these precious word's? And yet
it is so unless twenty millions of people cradled in Christianity
and civilization for a thousand years commit the foulest perjury that
ever blackened the pages of history. In anticipation of this result
I enlisted six months ago in order to be better prepared to play my
part in the great drama of the Negro's redemption. I wanted its drill,
its practical details, for mere theory does not make a good soldier.
I have learned something of the war, for I have seen war in its brightest
as well as its bloodiest phase, and yet I have nothing to regret.
For since the stern necessities of this struggle have laid bare the
naked issue of freedom on one side and slavery on the other freedom
shall have, in the future of this conflict if necessary my blood as
it has had in the past my earnest and best words. It seems to me that
you can have no good reason for withholding from the government your
hearty cooperation. This war will educate Mr. Lincoln out of his idea
o the deportation of the Negro quite as fast as it has some of his
other pro-slavery ideas with respect to employing them as soldiers.
Hitherto they have been socially and politically ignored by this
government, but now by the fortunes of war they are cast morally and
mentally helpless (so to speak) into the broad sunlight of our Republican
civilization there to educated and lifted to a higher nobler life.
National duties and responsibilities are not to be colonized; they
must be heroically met and religiously performed. This mighty waste
of manhood resulting from dehumanizing character of slave institutions
of America is now given back to the world through the patient toil
and self-denial of this proud and haughty race. They must now pay
back the Negro in Spiritual culture in opportunities for self-improvement
what they have taken from him for two-hundred years by constant over-taxing
of his physical nature. This law of supply and demand regulates itself.
And so is the question of the colonization of the Negro; it will be
settled by laws over which war has no control. Now is the time for
you to finish the crowning work of your life. Go to work at once and
raise a Regiment and offer your services to the government and I am
confidant they will be accepted. They will say we will not fight.
I want to see it tried on. You are the one of all others to demonstrate
Rockford historians report that in 1864, Douglass was a resident
of Rockford, Illinois, and campaigned for Lincoln's re-election (A
History of Rockford Illinois, John L. Molyneaux, Local History
Department, Rockford Public Library,1997)