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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 Kevin Dier-Zimmel)

    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 this fact.

  • 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)