DUTY HAS BEEN THE MOVING POWER IN MY LIFE (JULY 12, 1891)

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themselves with them? The business of government is to hold its broad shield over all and to see that every American citizen is alike and equally protected in his civil and personal rights. My confidence is strong and high in the nation as a whole. I believe in its justice and in its power. I believe that it means to keep its word with its colored citizens. I believe in its progress, in its moral as well as its material civilization. Its trend is in the right direction. Its fundamental principles are sound. Its conception of humanity and of human rights is clear and comprehensive. Its progress is fettered by no State religion tending to repress liberal thought; by no order of nobility tending to keep down the toiling masses; by no divine right theory tending to national stagnation under the idea of stability. It stands out free and clear with nothing to obstruct its view of the lessons of reason and experience.

It may be said, as has been said, that I am growing old, and am easily satisfied with things as they are. When our young men shall have worked and waited for victory as long as I have worked and waited, they will not only learn to have patience with the men opposed to them, but with me also for having patience with such. I have seen dark hours in my life, and l have seen the darkness gradually disappearing and the light gradually increasing. One by one I have seen obstacles removed, errors corrected, prejudices softened, proscriptions relinquished, and my people advancing in all the elements that go to make up the sum of general welfare. And I remember that God reigns in eternity, and that whatever delays, whatever disappointments and discouragements may come, truth, justice, liberty, and humanity will ultimately prevail.

DUTY HAS BEEN THE MOVING POWER IN MY LIFE: AN INTERVIEW GIVEN IN WASHINGTON, D.C., ON 12 JULY 1891

New York World, 13 July 1891. Another text in Miscellany File, reel 34, frames 510—11, FD Papers, DLC.

On 3 July 1891 , Douglass arrived in New York City aboard the steamer Prinz Wilhelm III for a sixty-day leave from his diplomatic post in Haiti. Many newspapers in New York and Washington, D.C., interviewed Douglass soon after his arrival about the recent failed coup d’état in Port-au-Prince and about rumors that the State Department had recalled him for mishandling negotiations to acquire the Môle St. Nicolas as a coaling station for the U.S. Navy.

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The longest and most comprehensive of these interviews took place on 12 July 1891 when an unidentified black reporter for the New York World visited Douglass’s Cedar Hill residence in Washington. New York Sun, 4, 10 July 1891; New York World, 4, 6 July 1891; Washington Post, 4 July 1891; New York Age, 11 July 1891.

WASHINGTON, July 12.—United States Minister Frederick Douglass’s residence in Port au Prince has not improved his health. His conversation is no longer punctured with that vigor of voice with which all who have heard the orator are familiar. He recognizes his want of physical stamina and is impatient to leave Washington for Maine, where he expects to so renew his health that if, at the expiration of sixty days, when his leave ends, he returns to his post at Hayti, he will be equal to the performance of all the duties of his office.^1^ It was evident, however, that his intellect has not suffered. It still scintillated in a way to tax his languid tongue to give expression.

Driving through the spacious grounds of Mr. Douglass and around and up the hill to its apex, upon which is perched his commodious residence, 1 found the Minister and Mrs. Douglass and a party of their friends upon the lawn playing croquet. Recognizing me as I approached, Mr. Douglass threw down his mallet and with a smile said: “Here comes one belonging to the Third Estate and I suppose I must do him reverence. As he comes in the name of THE WORLD I can say in all sincerity,” holding out his hand to assist me from the wagon, “you are welcome. I have always found THE WORLD truthful and uniformly just.”

HIS AMBI'I‘ION SATISFIED.

As 1 reached the ground and was about to speak, Mr. Douglass placed his hand upon my shoulder in the most familiar fashion, and stopped me. “Wait,” he said. “One of the charges made against me is that I am inordinately ambitious, and that l have not been satisfied to rest contented in the enjoyment of such honors and emoluments as have already been conferred upon me, and that I should not have accepted the mission to Hayti.

“Look about you,” continued Mr. Douglass, with a sweep of his hand, pointing out the beauties of the rural scene which lay before us. Is it to have

1. Private correspondence reveals that both Douglass and his wife were in ill health at the time oftheir return from Haiti. Both Douglasses, however, recovered quickly at their residence at Anacostia in the District of Columbia and no trip to Maine is known to have taken place. Charles Still to Douglass, 4 July 1891, reel 6, frames 144—46, Ebenezer D. Bassett to Douglass, 14 July 1891, reel 6, frames 148—50, General Correspondence File, FD Papers. DLC.

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a home like this that a man of my ripe years and wide experience would follow phantom ambition in search of fleeting honors? What can the world give me more than I already possess? I am blessed with a loving wife, who in every sense of the word is a helpmate, who enters into all my joys and sorrows. l have children whose every aim is to do me credit. I have friends loyal and true, whose great delight seems to be to gather close around me. What more can I want?

“I have earned the reputation of being a sensible man. Then is it likely that ambition could seduce me away from the enjoyment of these desirable things? There is something greater, more potent, than ambition that sways the actions of conscientious men. It is duty.

“Duty has been the moving power that has influenced all my actions during all the years of my life. In the past it gave me courage to face the howling mob while contending for the freedom of my people. In the present it gives me courage to endure the abuse of foes, even as it gives me charity for the acts and sayings of those of my people who oppose and assail me. So far as the latter are concerned, I console myself with the knowledge that all of them should be my friends.

“I believed that duty called me to Hayti. I hoped that I would be able to serve the United States by securing the concession of Mole St. Nicholas^2^

2. As early as 1884, the United States expressed an interest in the Môle st. Nicolas as a possible coaling station or naval base. Located on the northwestem tip of Haiti, Môle St. Nicolas, just a short distance from Cuba, was on a narrow strait to the Caribbean Sea. During the Haitian civil war between followers of François-Denis Légitime and Louis M. F. Hyppolite, representatives of both factions discussed the sale or lease of the Môle to the United States in exchange for diplomatic recognition and military assistance. American businessman William Pancoast Clyde, who sought to form a steamship route from New York City to Haitian ports, also conducted a series of informal negotiations for the acquisition of the Môle. Secretary of State James G. Blaine believed that the Haitians were obligated to lease the Môle to the United States as repayment for this country‘s favoritism toward Hyppolite during the civil war. Blaine did not press this claim through official channels, however, until the Haitians, in the summer of 1890, categorically rejected Clyde's overtures. In January 1891, Blaine dispatched Rear Admiral Bancroft Gherardi as a “special commissioner" to cooperate with Douglass in formally petitioning the Haitian government for exclusive rights to the Môle for one hundred years. After a number of delays, including a controversy regarding Gherardi's powers to negotiate for the United States, the Haitian govemment refused the request. The Haitians calculated correctly that, despite Gherardi's concentration of practically the entire Atlantic fleet at Port-au-Prince, the United States was not prepared to go to war to obtain the Môle. Douglass, Life and Times, 623—47; Logan, Diplomatic Relations of the United States with Haiti. 321, 420—57; Ludwell Lee Montague, Haiti and the United States, 1714—1938 (Durham, N.C., 1940), 148—59; Daniel Brantley, "Black Diplomacy and Frederick Douglass' Caribbean Experiences, 1871 and 1889—91: The Untold Story," Phylon, 25 : 197—209 (September 1984); Myra Himelhoch, Frederick Douglass and Haiti's Môle St. Nicolas," JNH, 56 : 161—80 (July 1971); Louis Martin Sears, “Frederick Douglass and the Mission to Haiti, 1889—1891," Hispanic American Historical Review, 21 : 222—38 (July 1941).

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and at the same time I hoped to so improve the opportunity which residence in Hayti gave as to make it patent to all the civilized nations of the world that my people are as other peoples—amenable to improvement and endowed with all desirable qualities.

“Now, not another word,” continued Mr. Douglass, interrupting himself, “until you have given attention to your horse. Lead him into the shade and give him some water. Learn to be careful for the comfort of all things that depend upon you and it will not need much more to make you happy and contented.”

Having given the horse the care which Mr. Douglass suggested, I found a seat upon a rustic bench beneath a blossoming tree beside my host.

ANSWERING NEWSPAPER ATTACKS .

Mr. Douglass said that he had not read any of the stories which had been published regarding his conduct of the affairs of the United States Legation in Hayti, and seemingly was much surprised when I told him what had been written about his actions during the Haytian emeute of May 28.^3^ His wife was as ignorant of these attacks as Mr. Douglass was, and when their notice was called to the story of the “Haytian Refugee,” as published in a New York paper of the 7th inst.,^4^ the old man’s rugged face showed

3. A small-scale rebellion against the rule of Louis M. F. Hyppolite occurred on 28 May 1891. Fighting began shortly after noon, while Hyppolite and most of the leading members of his govemment were attending religious services at the Port-au-Prince cathedral for the Corpus Christi feast day. Estimates of the number of armed rebels ranged from forty to seventy-five. Their leaders were a General Sully-Guerrier and François Garcia, an officer of Hyppolite's own guard. The rebels liberated political hostages held at the city‘s prison but within an hour troops loyal to Hyppolite defeated and scattered them. Sully-Guerrier and four other rebels fled to the Mexican embassy for sanctuary but Hyppolite’s soldiers dragged all five out into the street and shot them summarily. The execution of Hyppolite's political enemies, whether implicated in the revolt or not, continued for several weeks and the total killed approached three hundred. Most of the press in the United States harshly criticized the bloodiness of Hyppolite's suppression of this revolt. Douglass to James G. Blaine, 30 May 1891, 17, 19 June 1891, U.S. Legation, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Dispatches to the State Department, RG 84, Records of Foreign Service Posts, State Department, DNA; New York Sun, 4 July 1891; New York World, 14, 15 July 1891; Heinl and Heinl, Written in Blood, 319-20.

4. Douglass’s interviewer alludes to an article that appeared in the New York Sun on 6 not 7 July 1891. This article was an interview with an anonymous “Haitian refugee" and attacked Douglass's performance during the unsuccessful uprising in Port-au-Prince on 28 May 1891. In particular, the refugee charged Douglass with failing to prevent the massacre by Hyppolite’s troops that followed the coup attempt. The article also charged that Ebenezer Bassett, Douglass’s secretary, actually managed the diplomatic afiairs of the United States in Haiti and was to blame for the failure of the negotiations to purchase a coaling station at the Môle St. Nicolas. Douglass and Bassett immediately denied these charges but the Sun published a second interview with its source rebutting the two men. Douglass apparently believed that the anonymous “Haitian refugee" was "Jean," a businessman who had failed

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great emotion, expressing in turn surprise, displeasure and amusement. Mrs. Douglass’s eyes filled with tears, and her countenance indicated that she felt the deepest indignation.

“Oh!” said she. “Why is it that a so-called reputable newspaper will give space to such perversion of the truth? My husband’s career has been without blemish and a pure life is deserving of more tender treatment. But, Frederick,” said she to Mr. Douglass, “who is this refugee? Have you any idea?”

“Yes,” he replied, “I think that he is a person who was given a concession by Legitime^5^ to do some engineering, but when Hippolyte took up the reins of government he was not disposed to assist him to carry on the work. He was well known in the legation and we did everything to aid him that was possible, but without success. So, failing and losing money, I suppose he is dissatisfied and sour and now vents his spleen and cares not whom his virus poisons. But,” continued Mr. Douglass to his wife, “remain here and entertain our friends and we,” speaking to your correspondent, “will go to my study, where I can talk without fear of interruption. For, when THE WORLD selects a man of my own color and marks him as

to win approval for a contract with the Haitian government and had sailed with Douglass and Bassett aboard the Prinz Wilhelm III on their recent return voyage from Haiti. Bassett speculated that the article's source was an agent of the Clyde Steamship Company, Captain F. C. Reed, or a collaboration of “Jean” and Reed. The New York World of 2 August 1891 carried a report from John C. Klein, its correspondent in Port-au-Prince, dated 16 July 1891, that took the side of Douglass and Bassett and identified the “refugee” as a man who “bears a Scotch name and was here many months as the representative of a New York steamship company which has long been seeking a lease of Môle St. Nicolas," obviously Reed. New York Sun, 6, 8, 12 July 1891; New York World, 8 July, 2 August 1891; Ebenezer Bassett to Douglass, 14, 15 July 1891 , reel 6, frames 148—50, 150—51, General Correspondence File, FD Papers, DLC.

5. François-Denis Légitime (1842—1935) was agriculture minister in the cabinet of Haitian President Louis Félicité (Lysius) Salomon. When the latter was overthrown in August 1888, Légitime attempted to succeed him. The supporters of Louis M. F. Hyppolite disputed the legality of Légitime's election on 16 December 1888 as the fourteenth president of Haiti. At the start of the eight-month civil war that followed, Légitime held control of only the capital of Port-au—Prince and a portion of Haiti's south. The loyalty of the nation's navy to Légitime, however, allowed him to declare a blockade of ports commanded by Hyppolite. His regime even won recognition from the major European powers as the legitimate government of the whole country. Thanks in part to the United States' refusal to recognize Légitime's government or its blockade, Hyppolite's strength grew steadily. By the time President Benjamin Harrison finally recognized the authority of Légitime’s rule in June 1889, he controlled only the immediate area around Port-au-Prince. On 22 August 1889, Légitime conceded defeat and sailed into exile. Légitime lived in Paris for a time but returned to Haiti in 1896, remaining there until his death. Heinl and Heinl, Written in Blood, 239—40, 299—301], 303—09; Jacques-Nicolas Léger, Haiti: Her History and Her Detractors (1907; Westport, Conn., 1970), 241—44; Logan, Diplomatic Relations of the United States with Haiti,. 397—99, 426—47.

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