458 WASHINGTON, D.C.
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).
Notes and Questions
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