Commemorating the 175th Anniversary of Frederick Douglass's visit to Ireland, and his many contributions to the International community

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Senate Resolution No. 2974


COMMEMORATING the 175th Anniversary of Frederick
Douglass's visit to Ireland, and his many
contributions to the International community

WHEREAS, It is the sense of this Legislative Body to recognize
important events which remind us of the rich and diverse heritage of our
great State and Nation; and

WHEREAS, This Legislative Body is justly proud to commemorate the
175th Anniversary of Frederick Douglass's visit to Ireland, and his many
contributions to the International community; and

WHEREAS, Black History Month is a time to reflect on the struggles
and victories of African Americans throughout our country's history and
to recognize their numerous valuable contributions to the protection of
our democratic society in times of war and in peace; and

WHEREAS, As a fitting observance of February each year being
proclaimed as Black History Month, we honor the life and contribution of
Frederick Douglass, freeman and adopted son of Eire, who was born on
February 14, 1818; and

WHEREAS, Frederick Douglass was advised to flee the United States to
Britain and Ireland following the Spring of 1845 release of his book
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave; and

WHEREAS, He had escaped his bondage in Maryland in 1837, and soon
found his way to the free soil of Massachusetts; two years later, by
then married and having started a family, Frederick Douglass had
established himself as a gifted orator on the abolitionist speaking
circuit; and

WHEREAS, Under the sponsorship of William Lloyd Garrison's American
Anti-Slavery Society, Frederick Douglass traveled the states of the
North, railing against human bondage and demanding that it be outlawed,
activities which sparked frequent threats against him; and

WHEREAS, Frederick Douglass had developed an amazing influence,
especially among anti-slavery advocates and became the voice of his
fellow slaves still trapped in this ungodly institution; and

WHEREAS, His capture or death would have been a catastrophe for the
anti-slavery campaign; no one else could bear such a powerful witness to
the evils of slavery as Frederick Douglass; and

WHEREAS, The outstanding Black figure of the 19th Century, Frederick
Douglass was a target for every slave catcher and racist slave owner; it
was no surprise his book's release was explosive and created huge
hostilities; and

WHEREAS, In August of 1845, former slave Frederick Douglass set sail
from Boston for a two-year lecture tour of the British Isles, commencing
with four months in Ireland, including a meeting with Irish nationalist

leader Daniel O'Connell, that would have a transformative effect on the
famous abolitionist's subsequent life and career; and

WHEREAS, His extraordinary tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland
was arranged primarily to escape the increased threats of kidnapping and
bodily harm brought on by the publication of his best-selling
autobiography; and

WHEREAS, The United Kingdom was a sensible enough destination for an
abolitionist campaigner; in 1807, Parliament had prohibited any British
involvement in the slave trade and then, in 1833, outlawed the practice
itself in most of the empire's overseas colonies; and

WHEREAS, Frederick Douglass found Dublin to be a welcoming place
where he was no longer a piece of property but a rightful man; at
27-years old, he had a striking appearance with broad shoulders and
standing over six feet tall; and

WHEREAS, When he arrived at the home of his Dublin publisher,
Frederick Douglass was met with courtesy and deference befitting an
international celebrity; and

WHEREAS, While in Ireland from 1845-1846, Frederick Douglass found
his own voice. "I can truly say," he wrote home as he completed his
travels there, "I have spent some of the happiest moments of my life
since landing in this country, I seem to have undergone a
transformation. I live a new life."; and

WHEREAS, After landing in Liverpool, Frederick Douglass and his
white traveling companion, fellow abolitionist James Buffum, were to
ferry across the Irish Sea to Dublin; there they would commence
Frederick Douglass's lecture tour; and

WHEREAS, While in Ireland, he also worked with Richard Webb, a
Dublin printer, to publish a British Isles edition of Narrative of the
Life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave; and

WHEREAS, A highlight of his stay was meeting his hero, the Irish
nationalist, and abolitionist, Daniel O'Connell; it was Douglass's brief
acquaintance with Daniel O'Connell - "Ireland's truest son," just turned
70, who "had adventured his life for proper freedom" - that opens his
mind to the possibility of universal human rights; and

WHEREAS, The Great Liberator, Daniel O'Connell was unique in being
utterly against slavery; Frederick Douglass attended one of O'Connell's
mass meetings and was transfixed by his speech; and

WHEREAS, At a rally in Dublin, Frederick Douglass was brought
onstage and introduced by the Great Liberator himself as "the black
O'Connell"; and

WHEREAS, As the tour progressed, Frederick Douglass anticipated,
correctly as it turned out, that newspaper coverage of his passage
through Ireland and Great Britain would increase his stature as an
international celebrity; and that publicity in foreign newspapers,
refracted by the US press, would exponentially increase his renown in
America: "My words, feeble as they are when spoken at home," he told an

audience in Cork, "will wax stronger in proportion to the distance I go
from home, as a lever gains power by its distance from the fulcrum"; and

WHEREAS, As Frederick Douglass toured Ireland, a potato crop failure
was shadowing the already impoverished island, a ruined harvest that
would soon transmogrify into a catastrophe of unparalleled suffering,
ruin, death, and the diaspora; confronting that poverty, he, writing
home, noted that he found "much here to remind me of my former
condition"; and

WHEREAS, Frederick Douglass's tour consisted of extended stays, for
multiple lectures, in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Belfast; he also made
brief stops in Wexford and Waterford; and

WHEREAS, His book, as it happened, had been published two months
before Frederick Douglass's British Isles tour; in Ireland, as planned,
he oversaw the publication of a British Isles edition of his book; and

WHEREAS, Equally important, the tour accelerated Frederick
Douglass's transformation from more than a teller of his own life-story
into a commentator on contemporary issues, a transition discouraged
during his early lecturing days by white colleagues at the American
Anti-Slavery Society; and

WHEREAS, After he returned to America, Frederick Douglass resumed
his fight against American slavery in the South and for full civil
rights for black people living in the North; and

WHEREAS, In that latter effort, Irish-Americans of the North's
cities often numbered among his staunchest opponents; in May of 1863,
speaking in Brooklyn, he observed, "I am told that the Irish element in
this country is exceedingly strong, and that that element will never
allow colored men to stand upon an equal political footing with white
men. I am pointed to the terrible outrages committed from time to time
by Irishmen upon negroes. The mobs at Detroit, Chicago, Cincinnati, and
New York are cited as proving the unconquerable aversion of the Irish
toward the colored race."; and

WHEREAS, Even so, to the end of his life, Frederick Douglass fondly
remembered his 1840s lecture tour of Ireland and the welcoming reception
he had been accorded; and though many Irish-Americans often opposed his
civil rights efforts, he also viewed the Irish, in both Ireland and
America, as a persecuted people; he even saw parallels between their
plight and that of African Americans; and

WHEREAS, Throughout his career, Frederick Douglass often invoked
Daniel O'Connell and his struggles on behalf of Ireland as a cautionary
tale for African Americans and, more broadly, the United States; and

WHEREAS, In 1867, Frederick Douglass, in an Atlantic Monthly article
observed that "what O'Connell said of the history of Ireland may with
greater truth be said of the negro's. It may be 'traced like a wounded
man through a crowd, by the blood."; and

WHEREAS, Moreover, during his sojourn in Ireland, Frederick Douglass
had honed habits of independence, discretion, compromise, self-reliance
and practical politics which served him over the coming decades;
eventually these behaviors empowered him to play his career's most

defining role on the stage of world history-providing counsel for and
assisting President Abraham Lincoln's elevation of the United States
military's actions during the American civil war from a campaign to
preserve the Union to a moral cause devoted to vanquishing American
slavery; and

WHEREAS, Before leaving Belfast and Ireland on January 1, 1846,
Frederick Douglass wrote his impressions of Ireland to William Lloyd
Garrison: "My opportunities for learning the character and condition of
the people of this land have been very great. I have traveled almost
from the hill of 'Howth' to the Giant's Causeway and from the Giant's
Causeway to Cape Clear."; he eventually wrote about his escape to
Ireland in his later literary works; and

WHEREAS, Frederick Douglass died on February 20, 1895, in
Washington, D.C.; and

WHEREAS, It is important to recall and honor individuals such as
Frederick Douglass, longtime New York State resident, fittingly
recognizing their valued contributions and publicly acknowledging their
endeavors which have enhanced the basic humanity among us all; now,
therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That this Legislative Body pause in its deliberations to
commemorate the 175th Anniversary of Frederick Douglass's visit to
Ireland, and his many contributions to the International community.


  • 04 / Mar / 2020
  • 10 / Mar / 2020
  • 10 / Mar / 2020

Resolution Details

Law Section:
Resolutions, Legislative


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