RCC Honors History Project

Letter to Garrison from Harriet Beecher Stowe

Posted by elsiegonzalez on November 17, 2009

Cabin, Dec. 19

Mr. Garrison
Dear Sir:

After seeing you, I enjoyed the pleasure of a personal interview with Mr. Douglass and I feel bound in justice to say that the impression was far more satisfactory, than I had anticipated.

There does not appear to be any deep underlying stratum of bitterness — he did not seem to me malignant or revengeful. I think that it was only a temporary excitement and one which he will outgrow.

I was much gratified with the growth and development both of his mind and heart. I am satisfied that his change of sentiments was not a mere political one but a genuine growth of his own conviction. A vigorous reflective mind like his cast among those holding new sentiments is naturally led to modified views.

At all events, he holds no opinion which he cannot defend, with a variety and richness of thought and expression and an aptness of illustration which show it to be a growth from the soil of this own mind with a living root and not a twig broken off other men’s thoughts and stuck down to subserve a temporary purpose.

His plans for the elevation of his own race, are manly, sensible, comprehensive, he has evidently observed carefully and thought deeply and will I trust act efficiently.

You speak of him as an apostate — I cannot but regard this language as unjustly severe — Why is he any more to be called an apostate for having spoken ill tempered things of former friends than they for having spoken severely and cruelly as they have of him? — Where is this work of excommunication to end — Is there but one true anti-slavery church and all others infidels? — Who shall declare which it is.

I feel bound to remostrate with this — for the same reason that I do with slavery — because I think it, an injustice. I must say still further, that if the first allusion to his family concerns was unfortunate this last one is more unjustifiable still — I am utterly surprised at it — as a friend to you, and to him I view it with the deepest concern and regret.

What Douglass is really, time will show — I trust that he will make no further additions to the already unfortunate controversial literature of the cause. Silence in this case will be eminently — golden.

I must indulge the hope you will reason at some future time to alter your opinion and that what you now cast aside as worthess shall yet appear to be a treasure.

There is abundant room in the antislavery field for him to perform a work without crossing the track or impeding the movement of his old friends and perhaps in some future time meeting each other from opposite quarters of a victorious field you may yet shake hands together.

I write this letter because in the conversation I had with you, and also with Miss Weston I admitted so much that was unfavorable to Mr. Douglass that I felt bound in justice to state the more favorable views which had arisen to my mind.

Very sincerely your friend,

H. B. Stowe

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2 Responses to “Letter to Garrison from Harriet Beecher Stowe”

  1. sethrd23 said

    First off: I am assuming that the Douglass in this letter is Frederick Douglass, black abolitionist and author.

    Its pretty cool to be able to read a letter that is calling out William Lloyd Garrison as being unjust and judgmental. Especially because of his work in the field of abolishing slavery. It seems that he told Stowe that Douglass was “malignant” and “revengeful,” which seems rather hypocritical since Garrison wrote about the need to be coarse and abrupt in one’s language when trying to abolish slavery.

    • elsiegonzalez said

      Yeah, I found this very odd as well. I read Frederick Douglass’ autobiography a long while ago, and it in no way suggested his character to be “malignant” and “revengeful” (although we don’t really know this to be true since Douglass could have easily left out any nasty details about himself). This really makes me wonder what Douglass could have done to make Garrison go to such extremes and speak of him, as Stowe describes, “as an apostate”. Stowe’s letter really makes me curious and makes me wish I could go back in time and find out what was really going on between these Douglass and Garrison.

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