Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) was born a slave in Maryland, escaped to New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1836 and began his career as an abolitionist in 1841 with a speech delivered at an abolitionist convention in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Douglass' first abolitionist newspaper was The North Star commencing December, 1847 in Rochester, New York. Between 1851 and 1858 Douglass had editorial control over a larger merged paper. In 1858 Douglass began Douglass' Monthly, a paper concerned exclusively with abolition of slavery in America.
This rare November, 1860 issue of Douglass' Monthly, Vol.III, No. VI is in its original uncut state with sixteen (16) pages of text. This issue was published on the eve of the U.S. presidential election with Abraham Lincoln the Republican Party candidate. For Douglass, twenty years of work to end slavery rested on the outcome of this election. November, 1860 was a pivotal moment in American history.
The likely original owner of this paper is George W. Putnam, of Lynn, Massachusetts, active member and officer of the Massachusetts Abolitionist Society. "From George W. Putnam" is written on the front cover. What is logically a later ink manuscript inscription "Groton Historical Society from Miss Laura Putnam 1896" establishes the next owner. This issue of Douglass' Monthly was purchased at auction where immediate provenance was described by the auctioneer as the historical society.
There is curiously in the left margin of p. 368 of this paper a simple drawing of a pointing hand. After reading p. 368, the object of the pointing hand becomes clear: "[For Douglass' Monthly.] THE SACRIFICE. 'UP! FOR IT IS TIME.' by George W. Putnam". This is George W. Putnam's abolitionist poem! Perhaps in a moment of author's pride Putnam took his pencil and drew the pointing hand. George W. Putnam was an active abolitionist speaker and writer. His name appears in the list of speakers in Old Slavery Days: Proceedings of the Commemorative Meeting Held By the Danvers Historical Society, April 26, 1893, Danvers Historical Society, Danvers, Massachusetts 1893. George W. Putnam is also noted as the author of four abolitionist poems in American Anti Slavery Songs, A Collection and Analysis . Vicki Lynn Eaklor, Greenwood Press, 1988.
This rare newspaper provides an unequaled insight into the abolitionist movement in America days before the election of Abraham Lincoln.
There are articles that address the core issues of the American antislavery movement, that illustrate the movement's internal conflicts immediately prior to the American Civil War and that report on the work of Canadian and English supporters of the abolition of slavery working in concert with Frederick Douglass. [The table of contents is shown below as it appeared in the paper.] Douglass himself writes on the first page about the political conflict developing between two important antislavery advocates and lectures them that the primary goal is to abolish American slavery and their other conflicts must be put aside. Douglass reiterates that the American Christian church establishment is a foundation of slavery in America. An article on the recent Political Abolitionist Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts covers the debate over whether to form a political party devoted to the abolition of slavery and nominate a presidential ticket rather than supporting the Republican Party and its compromises on slavery. The Worcester Convention coverage also includes the bitter repartie between two members on topics such as reparations to freed slaves, the merits of permitting other parts of the country to secede rather than engage in a civil war and the merits of educating the American voting public to outlaw American slavery versus recourse to a civil war for that end.
One of the most politically prescient articles and one that resonates today is the published letter of Sophia G. Croft, Douglass' correspondent in England. She writes on the eve of the upcoming American presidential election.
"Many on this side of the ocean are looking with intense anxiety to the Presidential election and its results. Of Abraham Lincoln we seem to have heard nothing until recently, and can but trust that, if successful, he may prove to have more anti-slavery principle than some of us give him credit for. Your sketch of the several Presidential candidates almost makes me hopeless for the future of the American people since (as you have so frequently said) we must judge of a people from the character of the men they delight to honor. Still, whoever be the commanders of the various armies in the field, it is clear that the coming battle will be one between SLAVERY and FREEDOM-..."
This issue of Douglass' Monthly captures the high stakes and uncertainty that ushered Abraham Lincoln into the White House and reminds us that the eyes of the world have for some time looked with disbelief and concern at American politics.
"Contents of this issue:
New Trouble Brewing Between Old Friends
The Political Abolition Convention in Worcester, Mass.
Jerry Celebration for 1860
The American Church and Clergy the Bulwark of American Slavery
William L. Yancey at Corinthian Hall
What is the Duty of Radical Abolitionists in the Present Campaign?
Hayti and Colored Emigration
Letters from the Old World
Christianity and Color
The 'Free Negro" in Maryland
The Sacrifice *
Advertisements, Obituary Notices, Etc."
*/ poem written by George W. Putnam, owner of this newspaper