Thursday, May 28, 2015

Frederick Douglass's Relationship Advice

Frederick Douglass to Harriet Bailey (aka Ruth Cox), London, 18 Aug 1846, Addition II, Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress. Written upon hearing of Harriet's engagement, when he was not aware that she had an intended.
I can not do any thing that looks like favoring a thing which I know nothing about especially a thing involving so grave a matter as that of marriage. It is a solemn matter. I wish I had time to write you such a letter as the solemn importance of the subject demands. Marriage is one act of our lives once performed it cannot be undone -- It is not a think which may be entered into to day and given up to morrow -- but must last so long as live continues -- I therefore counsel that you seriously consider before you take the step -- it may lead to a life of misery and wretchedness for which you alone must be responsible...I should rejoice to see you married tomorrow if I felt you were marrying some one worthy of you. It would in deed spread a dark cloud over my soul to see you marry some ignorant idle worthless person unable to take care of you or himself either -- I would rather follow you to your grave than to do that. You ought not to marry any ignorant and unlearned person -- you might as well tie yourself to a log of wood as to do so...

From the North Star, 20 October 1848:
A Word to the Ladies -- Is not much of the folly and dissipation of the times chargeable to the ladies? Do they not give their sweet smiles and pleasant voices to those who dress the best and are the most extravagant? Will a lady be so particular to stop in the street and talk with a mechanic as she will to a well dressed gentleman? -- pauper we were about to say.
                We can point to many a woman, who gave her heart and hand to a mealy-mouthed, delicate skinned, oily haired, fashionable young man, who has bitterly rued the day of her choice. A man who has but little business except to curl his hair, consult the tailor and talk insipidly, is not fit for a husband -- we care not how much money he may count.
                So long as young women are so unwise as to smile on such, there will be folly and dissipation among our young men. Ladies should be wise and consult their duty and future happiness. Young women, will you not reflect upon this subject?

Frederick Douglass to Rosetta Douglass Sprague, Port au Prince, Haiti, 23 Jan 1891, Addition 1, Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress.  Charles Morris was a young journalist in Washington, D.C.. Annie was Rosetta Sprague's eldest daughter and Douglass's granddaughter.

...If Morris and Annie are going to make a match, I hope they will not delay the matter. These long delays only bring trouble. None of my business I know it but one will think. I have known a good deal and among other things I have known young me to keep company with a lady and then keep all others at a distance and when the lady was no longer young leave her – I do not say that any such fate awaits our Annie – I hope otherwise....

And two months later:  Frederick Douglass to Rosetta Douglass Sprague, Port au Prince, Haiti, 6 March 1891, Addition 1, Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress. Nathan was Annie's father, Rosetta's husband, and was generally in and out of Douglass's favor.

...I meant all I implied in my reference to the case of Morris and our dear Annie. He should declare his purposes of keeping company with her or leave her course in clear in the world, and Nathan should tell him so – Annie is no longer a child to be trifled with, and I hope Morris is not trifling with her or trifling with himself. The life of a young woman is a solemn concern: One mistak step and her life is spoiled – If after keeping her company two or three years she is not married but all at once dropt – people draw conclusions unfavorable to her Now my dear Ros, Do not hurt the feelings of either Mr Morris or dear Annie, but I charge you as you value the future of your Daughter, to have a decision in the matter. Depend upon it I am right. Talk it over with Nathan. Tell him of the serious face I put upon it. He has strong good sense and I think he will see the matter in the same light as I see it in....

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