Rollin, Frank [Frances] A.
|CHAPTER V. -- EDITORIAL CAREER.|
He returned to Pittsburg in the midst of the presidential campaign resulting in the election of General Harrison. Finding political feeling high, as it is always on such occasions, he speedily received the infection, and threw himself forward in the political arena. Early in 1843 he became too well aware, by a sad experience, of the inability of the colored people to bring their inflicted wrongs and injustices before the public, in consequence of not having a press willing at all times to their cause. In many instances a paper which would publish an article derogatory to their interest on one day, if applied to on the next to publish for some colored person an answer or correction, the applicant would either be told certain expressions must be modified, the article is not respectful to the parties, or refuse entirely on the plea that "it would not be politic."
With these impediments he knew their progress would be retarded, and to this end he began unassisted a weekly sheet under the title of the Mystery, devoted to the interest and elevation of his race. Success followed the movement; the first issue in all taken was one thousand in the city; its circulation rapidly
It was well conducted, and held no mean position in the community, especially where it originated. The learned and lamented Dr. James McCune Smith, of New York, said "it was one of the best papers ever published among the colored people of the United States."
The editorials of his journal elicited praises even from its enemies, and were frequently transferred to their columns. His description of the great fire of 1844, in Pittsburgh, which laid a great portion of that manufacturing city in ruins, was extensively quoted by papers throughout the country. The original matter, so frequently copied, was sufficient to determine the status of his paper.
During the Mexican war he bore his part in the field against the knights of the quill, for this stand against the Polk administration was so decided that on more than one occasion the subject was strongly combated.
Much good was done through the influence of that little sheet, and it is indisputable that to its influence originated the Avery fund. Once, on the subject of female education through the columns of his paper, he argued that men were never raised in social position above the level of women; therefore men could not be elevated without woman's elevation further, that among the nations of the world where women were
After reading his editorial on the social requirements of the colored people, it is said that the Rev. Charles Avery determined to do something tangible for them. The reverend gentlemen, after consulting some of the most prominent colored men, among whom was the Rev. John peck, established a school for males and females. This was the first step towards that which is now known as every's College, at the head of which was placed, laws senior professor, Martin A Freeman, M.A. (now professor of mathematics in the University of Liberia). He was succeeded by George B. Vahon, M.A., a most accomplished scholar. The Rev. Mr. Avery did not step in the work so well begun. He died in 1858, bequeathing in his will "one hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the education and elevation of the free colored people of the United States and Canada, one hundred and fifty thousand for the enlightenment and civilization of the African race on the continent of Africa," all in trust to the American Missionary Association of New York city; making in all a grand bequest of three hundred thousand dollars, exclusive of the college. We do not claim more than is evident-- that the Mystery deserves the credit of having brought these wants before the public, and more humanitarian responded to the call most liberally.
While he was editor on the centennial anniversary of
While editor of the Mystery, he was involved in a suit, the occasion of which will serve the double purpose of showing the estimate placed upon the merit of his paper, and the respect in which the ability and character of the man were held in Pittsburgh.
It happened, in the warmth of his zeal for the freedom of the enslaved, that he, through the columns of his paper, charged a certain colored man with treachery to his race by assisting the slave-catchers, who, at that time, frequented Pennsylvania and other free states.
The accused entered a suit of libel through advice, probably, of some of his accomplices, who were whites, as it is evident his calling would preclude the possibility of the individual to think himself aggrieved.
The presiding judge, before whom the case was tried, having no sympathy with abolitionists, and less with that class of Negroes represented by Martin Delany, took great pains to impress upon the minds of the jury, in his charge to them, the extent of the offense of libel. After their verdict of guilty was rendered a fine of two hundred dollars, together with the cost of prosecution,
A subscription list was opened at the office of the Pittsburg Daily Despatch, which led off first in the appeal.
The chivalric governor, Joseph Ritner, was in office then--him for whom freedom's sweetest bard invoked his muse to link his name with immortality. About one week after the suit and before the sum could be raised, the Governor remitted the fine. This was occasioned through a petition originating with his able counsel, the late William E. Austin, which was signed not only by all of the lawyers of the court, but it is said by the bench of judges; thus leaving the costs only to be paid by him.
The success of this suit, however, served to embolden the slave hunters; and again did this faithful sentinel give the alarm; but this time his language, while it unmistakably pointed to the guilty party, was carefully chosen, in order to avoid litigation. These, determined to drive him from his post, so formidable to them, still so valiantly held by him, again entered suit against him. Their former success established no precedent for the second.
In the prosecution of this case, another jurist sat in judgement, the term of the pro-slavery judge having
On another occasion, he was the recipient of forensic compliment, facetiously given, because also of the source whence it emanated, and because he was not present at the court to suggest the remarks of the attorney in the midst of the pleading.
A highly respected colored man was under trial charged with a serious offense. His counsel, an influential lawyer, Cornelius Danagh, Esq., afterward attorney general of the state, under Governor William T. Johnston, of Pennsylvania, declared the prosecution as arising from prejudice of color against his client. The prosecution was conducted by the late Colonel Samuel W. Black, who served under General McClellan, and fell in the seven days' flight before Richmond. "They tell you," said he, in his peculiarly forcible style, "that we have brought on this prosecution through prejudice to color. I deny it; neither does the learned counsel believe it. Look at Martin Delany,
It is probable that no portion of this reference to him pleased him better than that which alluded to his blackness.
While conducting the paper, another production of his elicited much discussion, and to which he still holds-- that the population of the world. He claims that two thirds are colored, and the remainder white; that there are but three original races-- Mongolian, Ethiopian or African, and Caucasian or Europeans, as yellow, black, and white, naming them in the order as given in the genealogy of them, ham, and Japheth, all others being but the offspring, either pure or mixed, of the other three, as the Indian or American race of geography, being pure Mongolian, and the Malay being a mixture of the three, Mongolian, African, and Caucasian, the people of the last varying in complexion and other characteristics from pure African, through Mongolian, to pure Caucasian.
On the appearance of this article containing the above novel declaration of the preponderance of numbers of the colored races in the world, a learned officer of the university was waited upon in the city, on one occasion, and earnestly inquired of concerning the correctness of the statement, desiring, if it were incorrect, to contradict it an once. It was never contradicted.
After the return of Mr. Frederick Douglass from England, in the summer of 1846, he visited Pittsburgh, where he concluded to form a copartnership in a printing establishment with him. Disposing of his interest in the Mystery, we next find him aiding, by means of his talents and energy, the sustaining of a paper issuing from Rochester, New York, known as the North Star, the early name of the subsequent Frederick Douglass paper. To advance the interest of this, he traveled, holding meetings, and lecturing, so as to obtain subscribers, and endeavored to effect a permanent establishment of a newspaper, as a general organ of the colored people, on a secure basis, by raising an endowment for it, being convinced that this alone would insure its successful continuance.
The winter of 1848-9 found him in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, taking part in anti-slavery meetings and conventions, ably seconded by the eloquent Charles L. Remond, to whom, he says, the anti-slavery cause of new England is much indebted for the breaking down of the stupid prejudice, which once existed on the land and water transportation's, against colored persons.
One of the means resorted to-- so zealous were the colored people to sustain the rising North Star-- was the holding of fairs in Philadelphia, supported by a number of the most influential colored ladies of that city. At the first of these, December, 1848, it was, that William and Ellen Craft, now in England, the first victims selected under the atrocious Fugitive slave law (enacted later), made their appearance, and under circumstances so peculiar as to become historic on both
Hundreds of special or assistant marshals were appointed in the midst of a government which thundered her volleys of welcome to the Hungarian governor, a fugitive from Austrian tyranny! And now, in all our broad free America, there was no place of security from southern slavery for these.
For four long these obsequious marshals, whom the slave power doubtless rewarded in after years with starvation and death in their loathsome prisons, prowled around the dwelling in which the brave Craft resided, till at length that lion-hearted reformer and ever-devoted friend of the negro, Wendell Phillips, persuaded the daring fugitive, all things being prepared, to take passage on a vessel, his wife being already on board; and thus they escaped to England, where they were received under the auspices of the Baroness Wentworth, and are now enjoying a fair share of prosperity and all the advantages of British citizenship.
During his tour in behalf of the North Star, in July, 1848 when America's sympathy yearned towards the people of Europe, in the name of whose freedom the thrones were trembling a mob demanded his life in a village of Northern Ohio.
They first demanded of him a speech, in a derisive manner, which he refused. In revenge they circulated a report that he was an abolitionist and amalgamations. This had the desired effect, and soon a mob, consisting of nearly every male in the village, and neighboring farmers, attracted by a blazing fire which they had kindled of store boxes and tar, in the middle of the street, gathered, shouting, swearing, and demanding him of the proprietor of the hotel, who had closed his doors on the appearance of the rabble.
A barrel of tar was contributed by some person, and it was decided to a saturate his clothes, set him on fire, and let him run! Interference in his behalf was forbidden, and threats were made against the hotel keeper, who refused to eject him. The movement to break the doors in being threatened and attempted, the landlord addressed them from the window to the effect that it was his own property, and that he would not turn any well-behaved person from his house into the street, and if his property was injured, as was threatened, he would have redress by law. As the yells and threats became more defending, he saw no retreat, and determined to yield his life as dearly as possible Against the entreaties and advice of the proprietor and family, be found his way into the kitchen; seizing there a butcher's knife and a hatchet, he returned, and placed himself at the head of the stairs: having within his reach some chairs, he stood awaiting the issue with all the fire of his nature aroused.
A gentleman friend travelling with him, by blood and complexion a quadroon, was advised by Dr. Delany to leave him by making his exit through the back door,
One thing worthy of more than a passing notice occurred during this editorial existence which we will relate here.
It happened that, while travelling in behalf of the paper he stopped at Detroit, Michigan, and attended a trial in the Supreme Court, Justice John McLean presiding, before whom Dr. Comstock, and gentleman of respectability and wealth, and others of that state, were arraigned on charge of aiding and abetting the escape of a family of blacks from Kentucky, known as the Cross waits. In the case it had been proven satisfactorily that Dr. Comstock had nothing to do with their escape. Having heard of the affair (being two or three miles distant), he came to the scene of confusion just in time to hear the threats and regret of the defeated slave-hunter, Crossman. The doctor stood there enjoying the discomfiture, and expressed himself to a friend that he hoped "they would not be overtaken." For this Judge Mc Lean ruled him guilty as an accomplice in the escape, stating that it was "the duty of all good citizens to do all they could to prevent it; that whether housing or feeding, supplying means or conveyances, throwing himself or other obstructions in the way, or standing hindering and obstructing in the escape of the salves and therefore such person was reprehensible before the law as a particeps criminis, and must be held to answer."This novel decision of the judge of the Supreme Court was so startling to him at that time -- for, alas! decisions more wounding to the honor of the nation have since emanated
The Mass Convention assembled outside, supposed to be forty thousand, filling the public square, hotels, and many of the streets, about six thousand of whom, occupying the great Oberlin tent, which had been obtained for the purpose, and constituting the acting body of the Mass Convention, while four hundred and fifty of the credited delegates were detailed as the executive of the great body, and assembled in a church near by, before whom all business was brought and prepared before presenting it to the body for action.
The Hon. Charles Francis Adams, late minister to the
"I am sir," replied he.
"Are you one of the editors of the North Star, sir?"
"Yes, sir I am," he answered, feeling, very likely, most uncomfortable by this attention.
"Are these your initials, and did you write this article concerning Justice McLean of the Supreme Court, in the case of Dr. Comstock and others, and the Crosswait family?" continued his interlocutor.
"That is my article, and these are my initials, sir,"
"I've but one question more to ask you. Did you hear Judge McLean deliver this decision, or did you receive the information from a third party? demanded the questioner.
"I sat in the court-room each day during the entire trial, and reported only what i heard, having written down everything as it occurred," returned Dr. Delany.
"That is all, sir; I am satisfied," concluded the stranger, departing from the great pavilion, and going directly across the street to the church, wherein sat the executive or business part of the convention, leaving the corresponding editor of the North Star in almost aggravated state of conjectures.
The all-important business at the church, then under consideration before them, was the nomination of a candidate for the presidency. The session was long and important. No report of the proceedings or their progress had been received during the day. Near sunset a representative of the council entered the pavilion, and announced from the stage that they would soon be ready to give the convention the result of their deliberations. soon after there was a great move forward, and, amidst deafening applause, the Hon. Salmon P. Chase ascended the platform, and announced that, for reasons sufficiently satisfactory to the executive council, the name of Judge john McLean, of Ohio, had been dropped as a candidate for the presidency of the united States, and that of Martin van Buren substituted; and he had been selected by the council to make this statement, from considerations of the relationship which he bore to the rejected nominee; so that his friends in the convention might understand that it was no act of political injustice by which the change was made.
Probably, apart from the executive body, none knew at the time the cause of the withdrawal of the name
From the Free Soil Convention he and a number of the colored delegates went directly to Cleveland, to attend a national convention of colored men. They assembled in the court-room granted to them by the proper authority, the court and bar having generously adjourned for the purpose-- a mark of courtesy not often, if ever, recorded at the conventions of this colour. And, what was equally as remarkable, the citizens, represented by gentlemen of position, on the last day of the conventions, took a vote in the house expressive of their satisfaction with the entire proceedings of the delegates.
While travelling to advance the interests of his journal, a remarkable political foresight on his part was manifested by the publication of a letter in its columns. It established for him, ever after, a character for observation of national and international polity, in which he delights to search out and compare, not at that time accorded to one of his race. This attracted the attention of many of the leading men, and their inquiries led him to a conclusion which was soon verified by action, as the following editorial
Letter to the North Star.
"The recent republication of the letter of the Duke of Wellington to Sir John J. Burgoyne, a major general in the British army, respecting the dangerous exposure of the English coast to French invasion, has created quite an alarm, as well as thrown into speculation the political world. Neither is it hard for any who at all understand political economy, especially the present history of the political world, to determine the cause, at such a time as when 'England is at peace with all nations,' and especially in friendly relations with France, of the issue of such a document by the duke.
"Louis Philippe, King of France, is certainly, in my estimation, a great politician, having a great portion of the shrewdness, with all the intrigue, of Talleyrand, and inheriting a greater share of duplicity than most men living. And, what no monarch of France, from Louis I. to the Emperor Napoleon, was ever able to effect by political intrigue, power, and the sword, Louis Philippe is about to accomplish by duplicity, yet carried out in a manner the least to be suspected.
"It is known that France has ever desired a universal mastery, as shown by the Wellington letter, having at different periods occupied every capital in Europe, save that of England. The extension of a royal family over different kingdoms has, in Europe, ever been regarded as a most dangerous precedent, and more dreaded by rival powers than fleets and armies. For
"The next effort was in 1835, a demonstration upon the republic of Hayti, for which purpose an expedition was fitted out, of which his second son, Prince de Joinville, was the chief, aided by Baron Las Cases, with whom it was left optional whether that demonstration should be made by treaty or bombardment. But the prince and baron, having before their minds eye the fate of General Le Clerc, the greatest captain and military tactician under Napoleon, considered it no disgrace to enter into friendly negotiations with the warlike republic. Leaving Hayti, without an opportunity of testing the military skill of the prince, the next attack was in 1836, upon. Vera Cruz, by storming the castle of San Juan de Ulloa. In this the squadron was quite successful, the Mexicans, under Santa Anna, being repulsed, with the loss of a leg or a foot by that chieftain.
"The prince having proved his military ability, the old king, as the first link in the great chain by which the fidelity or foreign powers was to be secured to France, managers to consummate a marriage between his son, the prince de Joinville, and Clementina, daughter of the Emperor of Brazil. This great link being welded in order to dupe England into an indifferent observation of his rapid strides, the masterly step was to effect the union of Prince Augustus Coburg, brother to prince Alert, husband to the Queen of England, with his second daughter. Another link being completed, he leagues in the ties of matrimony the Duke de Montpensier, his third son, to Isabella, Queen of Spain. No sooner is this effected--the last link of the great cable being complete--than the health of the Infanta Isabella becomes impaired, or she, at all events grows weary of public life; and a proposition is at once made to abdicate the throne in favour of her spouse, Duke de Montpensier. Of course, this at once gives Spain to the crown of France, which will thereby not only hold the key of Europe, but places Cuba, the key of the western hemisphere, also in her hands.
"The last stroke of the hammer being struck, all France being upon feet, each officer at his station, and each man at his post, Louis Philippe, looking upon his success as sure, as the crowning scene in the drama, effects the appointment of Prince de Joinville to the Lord admiralty of the navy of France--an office of the same import and rank, but called by another name. All this is but a prelude to the design of France upon Europe. Of course England would be the first point of attack; and there is no man living more capable,
"But are we not interested deeply in these movements? Most certainly we are. England, at present, is the masterpiece of the world. Her every example is to promote the cause of freedom; and, had she possessed the same principles during the revolutionary period, in every place that she occupied, Slavery would have been abolished Hence slavery in this country could not have stood; for, the slave once tasting freedom, all the powers of earth and hell could not have reduced him again to servitude.
"But how with France? she is a slaveholding power, deeply engaged in human traffic, favoring and fostering the institution of slavery wherever she holds the power or influence; and with the able politician and learned statesman Guizot at the helm of affairs, the cause and progress of liberty would be retarded for years.
"Yours, in behalf of our oppressed and down-trodden countrymen,