Frederick Douglass’s lies on the Great Famine

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26/11/2017 by socialistfight

Still nothing ‘natural’ about this ‘disaster’

By Gerry Downing

Image may contain: outdoor and natureThe Famine memorial stone at Killmoe graveyard, Goleen, my own parish – Gerry Downing

Below is an extract from Chapter 4 of the 2007 work Frederick Douglass and the Atlantic World by Fionnghuala Sweeney. I have retained the original footnotes numbers in the new footnotes. The extract, although it is written in obscure, sociological academic language – I have references the words I didn’t understand or only partially understood myself – gives a very rounded estimation of the politics and character of Douglas. I have appended the American National Biography Online, Frederick Douglass, to fill out the career of Douglas post Civil War.

There is no doubt that Douglass was a charlatan and a pro-imperialist bigot of the first order. His concern was centrally his own advancement, to join the ranks of the bourgeois elite. The absolutely disgusting attitudes he displayed to Ireland and its starving peasantry during the Great Famine of 1845-52 puts him beyond the bounds, not only of revolutionary socialist society but even of liberal humanitarian capitalist society.

A million Irish peasants starved to death in those years because they were filthy, lazy Catholic drunkards. “I hardly need say that, in speaking of Ireland, I shall be influenced by prejudice in favour of America”, he explains in the beginning and then goes on the tell of his meeting of an obviously starving man whom he consigns to the grave with contempt as a drunkard who was the author of his own misfortune, ‘But,’ Douglass was himself to write, ‘to the subject.’ As noted, the social conditions observed by Douglass could not be explained by any structural or political evil such as that represented by slavery in the United States. Instead, they are given a moral explanation. The immediate, and it may be the main cause or the extreme poverty and beggary in Ireland,’ Douglass was to write, is intemperance. This may be seen,’ he concludes, ‘in the fact that most beggars drink whiskey’:

“I was informed that he had been a very intemperate man, and that on one occasion he was drunk, and lying in the street. While in this state of insensibility, a hog with its fangs tore off his nose and part of his face! I looked under the cloth, and saw the horrible spectacle of a Jiving man with the face of a skeleton. The temperance cause has done much – is doing much – but there is much more to do, and, as yet comparatively few to do it. A great part of the Roman Catholic clergy do nothing about it, while the Protestants may be said to hate the cause.”

The American National Biography Online informs that:

“Other black leaders increasingly criticized his alleged moderation on key race questions, his devotion to American individualism (most clearly seen in his oft-repeated lecture, “Self-Made Men”), and his unswerving loyalty to the Republican party. They openly attacked his failure to criticize the party’s abandonment of the Reconstruction experiment in 1877.

And he still regarded the Republican party as the likeliest vehicle for black advancement. He campaigned widely for Republican candidates during the 1870s and 1880s. Partisanship brought rewards. President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Douglass as the U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia (1877-1881), and President James A. Garfield named him the district’s recorder of deeds (1881-1886).

President Benjamin Harrison rewarded him with an appointment as U.S. minister to Haiti (1889-1891). In this capacity he became an unwitting agent of American expansionism in the Caribbean, unsuccessfully attempting to negotiate special shipping concessions for American business interests and the lease of land for a naval base at Môle St. Nicholas. He eventually resigned his post and returned home in disgust.”

We are expected to believe he really was “unwitting agent” and that “returned home in disgust” nursing his vast fortune amassed by his class and race treachery.

For a more truthful version of what happened in 1845-52 see:

Nothing ‘natural’ about this disaster, Published in the Irish Post February 24, 1996, Gerry Downing provides an overview of the recently published Thomas Davis lectures on the Irish Famine, which, he says, give the lie to historical revisionism.

Image result for Lord John Russell images

“In 1846, the Whig (Liberal) government of Lord John Russell came to power when the Tories, under Sir Robert Peel, split over the repeal of the Corn Laws. These laws had seen the import of corn from Ireland rise from 16 percent in 1790 to 80 percent in 1830 (p 20) to feed the new English industrial working class. As soon as the ‘protectionists’ were defeated, the owners of Irish estates understood that a new source of income from different capitalist methods of farming was necessary. Lord Palmerston informed the cabinet of the necessity for this new system:

“It is useless to disguise the truth that any great improvement in the social system of Ireland must be founded upon an extensive change in the present state of agrarian occupation, and this change necessarily implies a long, continued and systematic ejection of smallholders and cottiers.” (p 163).

It is reported that a shudder went through the entire cabinet at this coldly-delivered sentence of death.”

“The highest mortality rate in the period between September 1846 and September 1847 was 19 per cent in the parish of Goleen (my own parish) and 18 per cent in (neighbouring) Drinagh, with half the deaths occurring in March and April of Black ’47, by far the worst year.”  [1]

In History Ireland magazine (1997, issue 5, pp. 32-36), Christine Kinealy, a Great Hunger scholar, lecturer, and Drew University professor, relates her findings: Almost 4,000 vessels carried food from Ireland to the ports of Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool and London during 1847, when 400,000 Irish men, women and children died of starvation and related diseases. The food was shipped under military guard from the most famine-stricken parts of Ireland; Ballina, Ballyshannon, Bantry, Dingle, Killala, Kilrush, Limerick, Sligo, Tralee and Westport. A wide variety of commodities left Ireland during 1847, including peas, beans, onions, rabbits, salmon, oysters, herring, lard, honey, tongues, animal skins, rags, shoes, soap, glue and seed. The most shocking export figures concern butter. Butter was shipped in firkins, each one holding 9 gallons. In the first nine months of 1847, 56,557 firkins were exported from Ireland to Bristol, and 34,852 firkins were shipped to Liverpool. That works out to be 822,681 gallons of butter exported to England from Ireland during nine months of the worst year of the Famine.

http://ighm.org/exports-in-famine-times/

From Chapter 4, Frederick Douglass and the Atlantic World Fionnghuala Sweeney, pp 84-93

The Hidden Ireland   [2]

Early in his tour, Douglass had cast that slave population as potential subjects of Christian abolitionist empire. In this stage of his self fashioning, that slave population, through Douglass, is freed from the American dialectic of race by an external, but easily recognizable object of moral difference. Though initially absent from Douglass’s observations, the Irish peasantry and urban working class become figures of a difference quantifiable in terms that are both class-related and of domestic significance in the United States. Douglass becomes the arbiter of a moral constituency that relies for its existence on domestic forces immune to abolitionist influence.

Hints of a letter to come dealing with the Irish situation are contained in some of Douglass’s earlier missives. Writing from Belfast, Douglass remarks that:

[in] the little more than four months [I have been in this country] … I have given no direct expression of the views, feelings, and opinions which I have formed, regarding the character and condition of the people in this land. I have refrained thus purposely. I wish to speak advisedly, and in order to do this, I have waited till I trust experience has brought my opinions to an intelligent maturity. I have been thus careful … because whatever influence I may possess … I wish to go in the right direction, and according to truth. I hardly need to say that, in speaking of Ireland, I shall be influenced by prejudice in favour of America. [3] 37

The reasoned caution of these remarks is a far cry from the exuberance of Douglass’s earlier letters. His intention is to provide his US audience with rational, eye-witness accounts of the inseparable ‘character and condition of the people’. Despite his vilification of US attitudes towards slavery, Douglass is still keen to maintain his national affiliations and bolster the self-image of his audience. Understandably, Douglass was ‘concerned with depicting himself in ways that would appeal to liberal Christian readers and valorise bourgeois social conventions’. [4] 38 By foregrounding the moral identification between himself and his US audience, Douglass can act as both mediator and politico-moral representative of a distant, if as yet imperfectly realized, republic. In so doing, his true identity, that of an expatriate American rather than escaped slave, is brought into focus.

The subsequent letter to the Liberator, far from presenting an example of cross-racial solidarity based on mutual experience of oppression, in fact, positions both Douglass, and the Irish peasantry and urban working class within a nativist US interpretative mould. Written from Scotland on 26 February, the letter, in its address, adopts for Douglass, the Liberator and its readership the heroic status of undaunted moral agents, in a missive of self-congratulation published in full on 27 March 1846. ‘It is the glory of the Liberator,’ Douglass rejoices:

that in it the oppressed of every class, colour and clime, may have their wrongs fully set forth, and their rights fully vindicated. … So also, though I am more closely connected and identified with one class of outraged, oppressed and enslaved people, I cannot allow myself to be insensible to the wrongs and sufferings of any part of the great family of man.

Aside from the moral alignment occurring between Douglass and the readers of the Liberator, the letter goes some way towards the adoption of the role of ‘liberator’ for Douglass himself. Although he speaks of his association with the ‘outraged, oppressed and enslaved’, his self- characterization avoids direct alignment with others of the ‘family of man’, pointing instead to his ability to transcend his own political interests. His connection is less with the downtrodden than with the humanist position of those striving for greater justice. As such, the letter marks a shift in Douglass’s political position, as he recasts himself as representative not just of Southern slave society, of which he is an exceptional example, but as black abolitionist representative of US Northern liberal culture.

The description of Ireland that follows has much in common with nineteenth-century characterizations in the British media. In the absence of any visual marker of difference – a darker skin colour – the Irish were characterized by the ‘barbarism’ of their accents – the conflation of linguistic and racial ‘corruption’ – and particularly by their depiction against domestic backgrounds of filth and disorder. British racism, McClintock observes:

drew deeply on the notion of the domestic barbarism of the Irish as a marker of racial difference. … [T]he iconography of domestic degeneracy was widely used to mediate the manifold contradictions in imperial hierarchy – not only with respect to the Irish, but also to the other ‘white negroes’: Jews, prostitutes, the working-class, domestic workers and so on, where skin colour as a marker of power was imprecise and inadequate. [5] 39

Douglass’s use of the discourse and iconography of the Irish as domestic degenerates played a key role in his own racial reconfiguration. His descriptions of ‘the Irish people’ (rather than ‘Irish friends, Irish abolitionists etc’), are, in his only concession to the political reality of his expatriate context, the letter describing Irish social and economic conditions, heavily overdetermined by a vocabulary of class and racial difference.

This finds expression in the descriptions of the misshapen humanity apparently teeming unchecked through the ‘beautiful city of Dublin’ of the earlier reports. ‘I dreaded to go out of the house,’ Douglass writes:

for [t]he streets were almost literally alive with beggars … some of them … mere stumps of men, without feet, without legs, without hands, without arms – and others still more horribly deformed, with crooked limbs, down upon their hands and knees, their feet wrapped around each other, and laid upon their backs. [6] 40

Irish family structures are similarly distorted, with ‘little children in the street at a late hour of the night, covered with filthy rags … with none to care for them. If they have parents,’ Douglass laments, ‘they have become vicious, and have abandoned them. Poor creatures!’

Although skin colour is never mentioned, the grotesque, quasi-human figures, the parasitical images of those literally infesting the city streets, can be read as descriptions of racial difference and to play on a typology of contagion. Ferreira reads these, and other depictions of the Irish in Douglass’s work [7] 41 as examples of cross-racial empathy, citing his comparative treatment of such issues as alcohol abuse and economic deprivation in his discussions of the slave South. In the Narrative, [8] the corrupting influence of the slave system tears families asunder, making orphans and widows a commonplace. But there is no acknowledgment of any political evil in Ireland, such as presented by the institution of slavery in the United States, which might explain Irish behavioural peculiarities.

Moreover, by the time of his Irish letters, Douglass’s distance from the US slave population was well established, and, indeed, self-evident. His distance from the peasant Irish – with a concomitant class dividend in both Britain and America – is what is being confirmed in the Irish letter. Nothing could provide greater contrast to the polish of Douglass’s own image, carefully cultivated in portrait and text, of the urbane, American gentleman of letters.

But his characterization of the Irish, which jars with Douglass’s stated political interests and to some degree with his ‘stylistic signature’, served particular ends in his American self-fashioning. Firstly, the publication of the letter, complete with moral self-congratulation, relieved Douglass, and the Liberator, of any charges of partisanship that might have been levelled by pro-slavery factions in the United States. Secondly, the moral difference of the Irish afforded Douglass an opportunity to reconfigure, within a transatlantic context, the dialectical structure of British and US American technologies of the self.

Background images of the Irish as anatomically distorted and socially atavistic provided Douglass and his US audience with clearly identifiable objects of difference. That difference was uncomplicated by the standard, by abolitionist discursive norms unacceptable, distinctions of the colour code. Instead, the focus is on the instigators of British and American domestic disorder. The description of degraded living conditions of the Irish poor, whose ‘rags … seemed to be held together by the very dirt and filth with which they were covered’, reveals the corrupt state of Irish domestic conditions:

of all the places to witness human misery, ignorance, degradation, filth and wretchedness, an Irish hut is pre-eminent. It seems to be constructed to promote the very reverse of everything like domestic comfort. … Four mud walls about six feet high, occupying a space of ground about ten feet square, covered or thatched with straw – a mud chimney at one end, reaching about a foot above the roof – without apartments or divisions of any kind – without floor, without windows, and sometimes without a chimney – a piece of pine and pamphlets, board laid on top of a box or old chest – a pile of straw covered with dirty garments, which it would puzzle anyone to determine the original part of any one of them – a picture representing the crucifixion of Christ, pasted on the most conspicuous place on the wall – a few broken dishes stuck up in a corner – an iron pot, or the half of an iron pot, in one corner of the chimney – a little peat in the fireplace, aggravating one occasionally with a glimpse of fire, but sending up very little heat – a man and his wife and five children and [of course] a pig. In front of the door-way, and within a step of it, is hole three or four feet deep, and ten or twelve feet in circumference; into this hole all the filth and dirt of the hut are put, for careful preservation. This is frequently covered with green scum, which at times stands in bubbles, as decomposition goes on. Here you have an Irish hut or cabin, such as millions of the people of Ireland live in. And some live in worse than these.

The organizing conceit of this description is that of factual reportage, with Douglass positioned as agent and mediator. The tableau presented is a gross perversion of any domestic norm, far from the idyll of the Victorian household soon to be expounded in Stowe. In the Irish ‘hut’, humans and animals occupying the same domestic space; a space without light, heat or comfort; a paradigm of disorder with a pit of contagion at its centre. 42 [9]

This domestic chimera casts the Irish as a transnational object of difference against which liberal US subjectivity may be posited. The Irish are located within US frameworks of racial and moral understanding, with ‘men and women, married and single, old and young, lie down together, in much the same degradation as the American slaves’. But the degraded conditions of the Irish, unlike those of American slaves, cannot be structurally vindicated as impositions of the slave system. Although Douglass goes on to remark, ‘I see much here to remind me of my former condition, and I confess I should be ashamed to lift up my voice against American slavery, but that I know that the cause of humanity is the one the world over,’ nothing could be further from the cultivated self-image constructed by Douglass during his Irish sojourn. And it is the Irish who bring that image into focus for his US audience.

These comments also absolve Douglass from any allegation of partisanship by activating the moral code inscribing his stylistic signature. Far from being selective in his attention to the cause of the American slave, Douglass is, in fact, addressing the wider ‘cause of humanity’: ‘He who really and truly feels for the American slave cannot steel his heart to the woes of others; and he who thinks himself an abolitionist, yet cannot enter into the wrongs of others, has yet to find a true foundation for his anti-slavery faith.’ While Ferreira concludes that Douglass “used the similarities as well as distinctions [between Irish and African Americans] as a means to give further legitimacy and power to their individual emancipatory interests [10] 43 the letter as a whole provides an interpretative dilemma for readings of Douglass which remain within the critical boundaries be his own self-fashioning. For rather than serving the emancipatory interests of the Irish (or indeed American slaves), the description of Irish people and living conditions acts as a means to power for Douglass himself, radically emphasizing his moral and social distance from the conditions witnessed and those elements of his past to which they bear relation.

‘But,’ Douglass was himself to write, ‘to the subject.’ As noted, the social conditions observed by Douglass could not be explained by any structural or political evil such as that represented by slavery in the United States. Instead they are given a moral explanation. The immediate, and it may be the main cause or the extreme poverty and beggary in Ireland,’ Douglass was to write, is intemperance. This may be seen,’ he concludes, ‘in the fact that most beggars drink whiskey.’ He goes on to explain:

The third day after landing in Dublin, I met a man in one of the most public or streets, with a white cloth on the upper part of his face. He was feeling his wav with a cane in one hand and the other hand was extended, soliciting aid. His feeble steps and steps and singular appearance led me to inquire into his history. I was informed that he had been a very intemperate man, and that on one occasion he was drunk, and lying in the street. While in this state of insensibility, a hog with its fangs tore off his nose and part of his face! I looked under the cloth, and saw the horrible spectacle of a Jiving man with the face of a skeleton. The temperance cause has done much – is doing much – but there is much more to do, and, as yet comparatively few to do it. A great part of the Roman Catholic clergy do nothing about it, while the Protestants may be said to hate the cause. I have been frequently advised to have nothing to do with it as it would only injure the anti-slavery cause. It was most consoling to me to find that those persons who were most interested in the anti-slavery cause in the US, were the same as distinguished themselves as the truest and warmest advocates of temperance, … at home. [11] 44

Douglass ‘s enquiry into the causes of the man’s disfigurement yields a story lacking nothing in horror or dramatic effect. The account casts Douglass as an amanuensis, [12] a position from which he can speak for, then interpret, the significance or the man and his story. That story dearly illustrates the case for temperance. Consumption of alcohol is an indicator of moral inferiority, producing effects as reprehensible as those occasioned by slavery. In common with the creatures described elsewhere in the letter, the man Douglass encounters on the streets of Dublin is only marginally human, a ‘living man with the face of a skeleton” [13] 45 There is no redemptive explanation for this, however, for, according to Douglas [An Irishman] is still master of his own body’ [14] 46

Mastery of the self is a key concern in the Narrative, where the master’s power over the slave body is seen as the negation of selfhood. [15] 47 The achievement of that selfhood involves a moral contest played out in the physical struggle between Douglass and Covey, in which Douglass exceeds, then discards the role of the slave. In the letter to Garrison, the Irish have surrendered their selfhood to the vice of intemperance. His story told does not involve racial contest, but the self-inflicted effects of moral degeneracy, sufficiently horrifying as to provide a parallel with the more shocking scenes of the Narrative, are not of a kind. Framed by the context of domestic corruption, the story reinforces the moral distance between Douglass the situation he describes, and the population he encounters. What initially appears to be a sympathetic comparison between two disadvantaged groups settles into an image of difference, in which the Irish, rather than reflecting the oppressed image of plantation slaves, embody the abuse of the freedom for which they, the Irish, are unfit.

Two of Douglass’s biographers have noted in this letter Douglass’s discursive proximity to British stereotypes of the Irish, which laid all distress at the door of intemperance. [16] 48 Given the letter’s intended audience, this account might also be said to reproduce the class–colonial relation within a US discursive framework, where it is reinforced by both nativist and abolitionist moral norms. The alcoholic excess of the Irish at home rebuts the black–white configuration of US moral hierarchies by helping to popularize the stereotype of Irish Americans as wastrels and drunkards among American readers. The intemperance of Irish Americans, added to their support of slavery, can acquire, through the lens provided by Douglass’s letter, a specifically racial focus by activating a nativist dialectic. Through the process of creating an object of difference to US selfhood, who, like the African, has a representative effect both within and exceeding national borders, Douglass introduces a new paradigm that censures forms of moral degeneracy rather than shades of skin tone.

The letter, then, does not merely reproduce British imperial stereotypes, it replicates US moral expectation in an overseas arena, establishing beyond doubt Douglass’s American credentials by activating principles of conduct and class, easily identifiable and understood by his US audience. It also posits the struggle with Irish American attitudes so familiar to US political liberals at home, within a transnational context of virtue or the lack thereof. Abolition and temperance, twinned in the closing lines of the extract, are seen as complementary modes of social and moral improvement, a position confirmed by their adoption by an international moral elite. Escape from the racial dichotomies of US society finds Douglass reconstructing his identity around other sets of oppositions, notably those related to class and morality, whose support of the myth of America he might as readily have questioned. [17] 49 In this letter, as part of his ongoing self-fashioning, Douglass the American ex-slave becomes Douglass the expatriate American, voice of US civilization, morality and modernity, and policing the discursive perimeter of nativist standards.

Reform and the Self

In the Narrative, Douglass moves from slavery to manhood, in a work now established as ‘the great authenticating text of the first century of African American autobiography’. [18] 50 David S. Reynolds writes:

the major writers [of the American Renaissance] were distinguished among their contemporaries by the breadth of their awareness of the various popular reform movements and by their success in rechannelling the reform impulse imaginatively in their own works. All of them recognised the immense cultural influence of reform movements and, as part of their efforts to create culturally representative texts, they repeatedly used reform images. [19] 51

In Ireland, Douglass, through engagement with the transnational politics of temperance reform as well as abolition, seized the reform agenda, becoming an arbiter of moral direction, and exponent and critic of the myth of America. Jenkins observes that ‘according to contemporary postcolonialist theory, Douglass represents himself in terms of hybridity’, citing his use of chiasmus as the appropriate form of racial expression for ‘a mulatto, site of racial crossings, … chiasmus personified’. [20] 52

That hybridity, Douglass’s reform work seems to suggest, involves the union of ‘native’ strains of morality, and the corresponding expulsion of ‘non-native’ sociocultural elements. His Irish transformation is achieved by extension of the vector of chiasmus [21] through careful creation of a metonymic [22] relationship with his US audience. In this relationship, Douglass becomes representative of US liberal opinion as a whole. It is his position in Ireland that allows this to happen, positing the existence of productive, even transformative spaces on the geographic, discursive and ethnic racial margins of the modern. There, the hybrid American nation-subject can summon itself fully into existence by activating a new technology of the self. Douglass becomes part of a larger process of nativist identification, one that seeks to circumvent the racial paradigms [23] underpinning slavery by replacing them with specific moral or behavioural standards.

The Irish letters provide nativist America and Douglass with an emblem of difference that supersedes (rhetorically, if not in fact) the racial difference occasioned by slavery. The Irish peasantry and urban working class allow Douglass to move a step further towards representative Americanness. The Irish letters become the means by which Douglass is transformed, in American eyes, from exoticism to authenticity, fully exploiting the representative potential of his hybrid racial, if determinedly nativist, US identity. If chiasmus is the appropriate mode for the expression of a hybrid self that will become representative of a hybrid nation – the United States – how much more representative of that hybridity then are the Irish editions, which formally posit multiple origins for both subject and text?

Famine1

“The Almighty, indeed, sent the blight but the British government sent the Famine.” John Mitchel Irish activist, 1861

Moreover, the representative status of the Narrative is, in Ireland, increased by its capacity continually to project itself into the present context of a symbolic selfhood. The open letters may be read as episodic extensions of a core history of American subjective emergence. Nineteenth-century US ethnic autobiography is normally characterized as a work of assimilation, as the ethnic self is absorbed to the greater cultural whole. Douglass’s escape from slavery was followed by his entry into the political and racial turbulence of the North. There, the dynamics of identity formation centred on the adoption of national codes, social and moral, and a nativist prerogative necessitating the creation of a self-differentiated from all that the nation was not. Stephen Raitton remarks of the literary milieu of the American Renaissance that:

‘[s]ocial freedom for Douglass and his fellow blacks [in the US] was ultimately dependent on the place they could occupy in the consciousness of the larger white culture’, [24] 53

while Andrews observes that:

‘black autobiography tried to move its white reader in one direction, from an alien to a consubstantial relationship with the text and the black self presumably represented by the text’. [25] 54

The Irish letters formally identify Douglass as representing those standards crucial to understandings of the liberal-democratic, masculine persona of the contemporary United States, and the enlightened moral codes of abolitionists. Douglass’s visit to Ireland and Britain and the texts he produced there were the proving ground of his Americanness. His writing confirmed his affiliation to Northern liberal humanism, while simultaneously exploiting the Southern plantocratic values of his upbringing. [26] 55 By demarcating the moral, rather than racial barrier with difference, Douglass’s reveals both the imaginary impact and problematic nature of the US experiment as a whole.

Ends

Appendix: American National Biography Online, Frederick Douglass

The 1870s were a “time of troubles” in Douglass’s life. An 1872 fire destroyed his Rochester home and the files of his lengthy journalistic endeavours. He moved his family to Washington, D.C., where two years earlier he had purchased the New National Era. Through careful editorial guidance, he attempted to shape the weekly into a mouthpiece for the race. But persistent financial troubles forced him to stop publication of the paper in 1874. That same year Douglass was named president of the Freedman’s Savings Bank, a federally-chartered savings and lending institution created to assist the economic development of former slaves. He soon found that the bank was in severe financial distress; it was forced to declare bankruptcy in a matter of months. These two failed ventures cost Douglass thousands of dollars and some public respect. Other black leaders increasingly criticized his alleged moderation on key race questions, his devotion to American individualism (most clearly seen in his oft-repeated lecture, “Self-Made Men”), and his unswerving loyalty to the Republican party. They openly attacked his failure to criticize the party’s abandonment of the Reconstruction experiment in 1877.

Image result for The end of Reconstruction Jim Crow  images

The end of Reconstruction dashed Douglass’s hopes for a meaningful emancipation. Even so, he never abandoned the fight for African-American rights. And he still regarded the Republican party as the likeliest vehicle for black advancement. A skilled practitioner at “waving the bloody shirt”–linking Democrats with slavery and the Confederacy–he campaigned widely for Republican candidates during the 1870s and 1880s. Partisanship brought rewards. President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Douglass as the U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia (1877-1881), and President James A. Garfield named him the district’s recorder of deeds (1881-1886).

These offices made him financially secure. But changing family circumstances unsettled his personal life. His wife Anna died in 1882. Two years later he married Helen Pitts, his white former secretary. This racially-mixed marriage stirred controversy among blacks and whites alike; nevertheless, it failed to limit Douglass’s influence.

Douglass was not lulled into complacency by partisan politics. He pressed Republicans as forcefully as ever on issues of concern to the African-American community, while continuing to campaign for party candidates. President Benjamin Harrison rewarded him with an appointment as U.S. minister to Haiti (1889-1891). In this capacity he became an unwitting agent of American expansionism in the Caribbean, unsuccessfully attempting to negotiate special shipping concessions for American business interests and the lease of land for a naval base at Môle St. Nicholas. He eventually resigned his post and returned home in disgust. [27]

Notes

[1] Nothing ‘natural’ about this disaster, Published in the Irish Post February 24, 1996, Gerry Downing provides an overview of the recently published Thomas Davis lectures on the Irish Famine, which, he says, give the lie to historical revisionism. https://socialistfight.com/2015/01/08/nothing-natural-about-this-disaster/

[2] From Chapter 4, Frederick Douglass and the Atlantic World Fionnghuala Sweeney, pp 84-93, https://tinyurl.com/y7zla9y5

[3] 37 Douglass to Garrison, Victoria Hotel, Belfast, 1 January 1846, in Foner, Frederick Douglass, 1, p. 125.

[4] 38 Andrews, To Tell a Free Story, p. 69.

[5] 39 Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (New York and London: Routledge, 1995), p. 53, emphasis original.

[6] 40 Douglass to Garrison, Montrose, 26 February 1846, in Foner, Frederick Douglass, 1, p. 138.

[7] 41 As for example his characterization of the Irish in one of his best-known speeches ‘Claims of the Negro Ethnologically Considered’. Full text in Blassingame, FDP, 1.2, pp. 497–525.

[8] Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, published in 1845 and 1846.

[9] 42 Additionally, the picture of the crucifixion noted by Douglass provides a subtle hint of the Catholicism of these households, and is an easily recognizable signifier of difference for Douglass’s Protestant audience.

[10] 43 Ferreira, “All But a Black Skin “”. p. 77

[11] 44 Douglass Garrison (Foner, Fredrick. Douglass, I, p. 141), ‘That Douglass claims to have witnessed such a scene on the third day after his arrival in Dublin is an indication that he had, from the outset of his visit, the opportunity to witness such scenes of deprivation, though he was not, with the exception of this occasion, ever to write of them.

[12] Amanuensis: A literary or artistic assistant, in particular one who takes dictation or copies manuscripts.

[13] 45 The analogy between the Irish and living skeletons was frequently made by other travel writers in Ireland at this time, though the emaciation witnessed derived from starvation rather than alcohol (see, e.g., William M. Thackeray, The Irish Sketchbook [1843, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1990]). The comparison appeared frequently in the press. In May 1848, for example, a reporter from the Cork Examiner on a trip to Cléire (the island of Clare, off the south west Cork coast) described being ‘met by moving skeletons with swollen legs and distorted features’. Of the people he visited he described ‘one man dead in his hovel. His mother had died a few days before and another woman in the next house was dying’ (Cork Examiner, 5 May 1848). These accounts are more or less typical of the scenes described throughout the country at the time

[14] 46 Blassingame, FDP, 1.1, p. 422.

[15] 47 For a discussion of the interrelation of manhood and power in Douglass’s work, especially in the contemporary context of the construction of manhood in American writing, see David Leverenz, Manhood and the American Renaissance (London: Cornell University Press, 1989), chap. 4.

[16] 48 Benjamin Quarles states that Douglass ignored ‘the potato famine which then gripped the country, [and] attributed all of Ireland woes to the dram shop’ (Frederick Douglass, p. 41), while McFeeley, according to Jenkins, describes Douglass as resorting to ‘the familiar dodge’ of blaming Irish distress on drunkenness (McFeeley, Frederick Douglass, p. 126; Jenkins, ‘“Black O Connell”’, p. 31).

[17] 49 A similar point is made by Andrews concerning Douglass’s presentation of the United States (as a colonial construct) through an adapted form of the jeremiad, noting that the nation and nation-subject could be understood only in terms of ‘alternatives generated by the symbol itself’, and arguing that though he tried in some sense to liberate himself from the symbol of America, he ‘maintained that symbol within a field of meaning of its own making’ (To Tell a Free Story, p. 131).

[18] 50 Andrews, To Tell a Free Story, p. 138.

[19] 51 David S. Reynolds, Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imaginary in the Age of Emerson and Melville (New York: Knopf; Random House, 1988), p. 92

[20] 52 Jenkins, ‘“Black O Connell”’, p. 35; see also Houston A. Baker Jr, Long Black Song: Essays in Black American Literature and Culture (Charlottesville, VA, and London; University Press of Virginia, 1972), p. 76.

[21] Chiasmus is a rhetorical device in which two or more clauses are balanced against each other by the reversal of their structures in order to produce an artistic effect. Let us try to understand chiasmus with the help of an example: “Never let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You.”

[22] The substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant, for example suit for business executive, or the turf for horse racing.

[23] A paradigm is a shared set of understandings or premises which permits the definition, elaboration and solution of a set of problems that are defined within the paradigm. Paradigms control fact gathering, and investigation focusing only on the facts and circumstances the paradigm teaches are relevant and important. [Black/White Racial Binary Paradigm, “I define this paradigm as the conception that race in America consists, either exclusively or primarily, of only two constituent racial groups, the Black and the White. Many scholars of race reproduce this paradigm when they write and act as though only the Black and the White races matter for purposes of discussing race and social policy with regard to race. The mere recognition that “other people of colour” exist, without careful attention to their voices, their histories, and their real presence, is merely a reassertion of the Black/White paradigm. If one conceives of race and racism as primarily of concern only to Blacks and Whites, and understands “other people of colour” only through some unclear analogy to the “real” races, this just restates the binary paradigm with a slight concession to demographics.

Juan F. Perea, The Black/White Binary Paradigm of Race: The Normal Science of American Racial Thought, 85 CAL. L. Rev. 1213 (1997). Ibid, https://applyingtheanalysis.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/the-black-white-binary-obfuscates-and-distorts-why-the-antiracism-movement-must-reject-it/

[24] 53 Stephen Raitton, Authorship and Audience: Literary Performance in the American Renaissance (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 198. David van Leer comments on ‘the many white discourses Douglass must appropriate if he is to have any audience in the North’, but concludes that ‘audience expectations cannot account for all the irregularities of Douglass’s mode of presentation’ (‘Reading Slavery: The Anxiety of Ethnicity in Douglass’s Narrative’, in Eric J. Sundquist, ed., Frederick Douglass: New Literary and Historical Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 118–40 (119–20).

[25] 54 Andrews, To Tell a Free Story, p. 137.

[26] 55 Andrews describes the slave narrative as ‘building a bridge of sympathetic identification’ between the black Southern fugitive and white Northern audience. The letters provide an extension and solidification of this process (To Tell a Free Story, p. 137).

[27] American national Biography Online, Frederick Douglass, http://www.anb.org/articles/15/15-00186.html?from=../15/15-00253.html&from_nm=Garnet%2C%20Henry%20Highland

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