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  --  FUGITIVE SLAVE ACT.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER IX.

Rollin, Frank [Frances] A.
Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delany



HIS career thus far in life, while generally successful, had also its portion of failures as well as triumphs. Two, of a marked character, occurred about the winter of 1851-2. Their ill success seemed rather to belong to the method pursued in presenting them, than to the capability of the man to make them meritorious.

He head left Pittsburgh of New York to make certain arrangements necessary for obtaining a caveat, preparatory to an application to the department at Washington for a patent for an invention, originally his own, for the ascending the descending of a locomotive on an inclined plane, without the and of a stationery engine. Had he succeeded in his first plan, the second would have been satisfactory. In this piece of mechanism, he was wholly absorbed, and brought it to completion. At length he made it known to his friend, Dr. James McLune Smith, of New York. The doctor, being possessed of talents of high order, and devoted to scientific pursuits, looked favorably upon the plan, and at once proposed to take him to an extensive machine establishment in the city for consultation of the subject.


At this establishment much curiosity, if not real interest, was manifested concerning it. But the reticence which characterizes him in matters in which concealment is necessary in no wise deserting him, and as he revealed but little to the proprietor, himself an inventor, the visit and interview were of no avail.

Not disheartened by this, he applied to a distinguished patent attorney, who, on application for a caveat after all the arrangements necessary, abandoned the effort as being unsatisfactory, leaving the inference to be deduced by major Delany and his friend Dr. Smith that the only cause of neglect or refusal to entertain the proposition at Washington was, that the applicant must be a citizen of the United States. His own opinion was contrary to the statement of the attorney,-- he believing the right to obtain copyrights or patents as not being restricted to he citizens alone, but in the reach of any person whether American or foreign he made a subsequent attempt to have it patented, but finally abandoned it.

His attention and interest were drawn in another direction for at this time adventure was at its height, and every vessel leaving the port of New York bore evidence of it. Many colored men, dissatisfied with their unrecognized condition, caught this spirit, and some embarked either for Greytown or San Juan del Norte,-- this being the chief point of attraction, which was like a free city, or independent principality of Germany, but neither held obligations to the one, narrowed allegiance to the other. George Frederick, king of the Mosquitoes, becoming dissatisfied with the intrusions and impositions practiced by the former

emigrants, Colonel Kearny, of Philadelphia, already on his way, if not at the point, said to Major Delany, "Every one seemed to breathe Central America."

While witnessing these preparations for departure to their EL Dorado, he met a young friend of his, a physician of great promise, Dr. David J. Peck, en route for California, whom he advised to abandon the intention of going to that place, where his success would be less certain among the hundreds of white physicians from all parts, who could scarcely realize a support from their practice; but to go to Central America, where his color would be in his favor, and his advantages superior to those of the physicians there, who are mostly natives, would be preferable.

Dr. Peck heeded his counsels, and become a prominent practitioner there. From the first he was nominated for port physician, in preference to an English physician of eleven years' standing.

The black adventurers soon affiliated with the natives, and were made eligible to every civil right among them.

A committee of natives was appointed to draught resolutions for a municipal council, at the head of which was Dr. Peck as chairman. Through their influence crowds of adherents were attracted to the new policy, and a future government was decided upon as certain to organize speedily.

It was understood that the mayor should be the highest civil municipal authority, the governor the highest civil state authority, the civil and military to be united in one person, and the governor must be commander-in-chief of the military forces.


A convention was held, and a candidate nominated. An election took place (in what way it was never publicly known), and a steamer brought the intelligence, officially transmitted, that "Dr. Martin R. Delany was duly chosen and elected mayor of Greytown, civil governor of the Mosquito reservation, and commander-in-chief of the military forces of the provinceThis was delivered to him by a bearer of dispatches sent specially for that purposes.

An important instruction to the governor elect was, that he should bring with him his own council of state as the native material, although of a country abounding in mahogany and rosewood, was not suitable for "cabinet-work." This, said he, was the worst feature of their choice, because such material as would be desirable was not easily obtained: they would not consent to go, being averse to emigration.

He held the belief that nothing was well tested without first giving fair trail to it; and for himself determined to do so. To this end he travelled, for nearly eight months, in many states, until worn out, without finding the desirable material, and was compelled to abandon his designs.

By the order of Dr. Holland, the American charge, the town was bombarded by Commodore Ingraham, of the United States squadron, and the embryo government disappeared from the stage forever.

While travelling on this quest he wrote and published a small work (originally designed for pamphlet from) on the condition of the colored race in America. This being published without proper revision, he having left it to another's superintendence,--for at this time

he was prosecuting his invention of the his invention of the inclined plane, and also the central American project,--on its appearance it was nearly dashed to pieces in the storm it encountered. None criticised it so severely as himself; while some of his friends were disposed to look favorably upon it, as the errors it contained could be not be disguised and the author was known to be aware of them. One severe criticism, more of himself, it appeared, than the book, he seemed to have regarded as "the unkindest cut of all"--that of Mr. Oliver Johnson, then editor of the Pennsylvania Freeman. To add to the list of disasters, some person sent a copy to England to Mr. Armisted, author of the "Negro's Friend."

He says, in speaking of Mr. Johnston's criticism of himself, "I was poor when I wrote, weary and hungry. This my friend Johnson did not know, else he would not so severely have criticised me. He thought I wrote as an author, to be seen and known of men. I wrote not as an author, but as I travelled about from place to place.

Sometimes I sat, sometimes I stood,
Writing when and where I could,
A little here, a little there;
"Twas here, and there, everywhere.

I wrote to obtain subsistence. I had travelled and speculated until I found myself out of means."

The book was stopped by him in the midst of the first edition of one thousand.

He always likened himself, concerning that literary undertaking, to Gumpton Cute, a character in the play of Uncle Tom's Cabin, who "being on a filibustering expedition, got a little short of change." Thus failing in

all that he had designed, with the most laudable motives in view, and succeeding in that with which he neither desired nor could be satisfied--making a poor book. While he good-humoredly admits the fallacy of his moves, yet his friends, mindful of the long, wearisome months of toil and anxiety, and of high hopes wrecked, regret them, as making a void useless and unnatural in his life's history, and consider it an episode illegitimate in his role.

  --  FUGITIVE SLAVE ACT.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER IX.