O.P. Recommends: Slavery and the History of Abolition: An Interview with Manisha Sinha for the African American Intellectual History Society

1898 portrait of Frances E.W. Harper, one of the multitude of abolitionists so richly featured in Sinha’s The Slave’s Cause

I’ve been reading Manisha Sinha‘s wonderful book The Slave’s Cause as fast as I can, which is not very fast at all given my current master’s degree course heavy reading load. But today, I’m happy to say, I’ll be really digging into it for a seminar essay I’m working on. What a happy coincidence that this interview with Rebecca Brenner for the African American Intellectual History Society is just published today; thanks as always for the excellent work you do, AAIHS!

Here are some audio sources to learn more about Sinha’s work on African American leadership in the abolitionist movement:

Harvard Book Store talk, March 2016, recorded and published at C-SPAN

Manisha Sinha, A History of Abolition: interview with Liz Covart for Ben Franklin’s World podcast

Slavery & Abolition in Antebellum America with Manisha Sinha, interview with Daniel Gullotta for The Age of Jackson Podcast

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

New Podcast Episode: Peoria, Illinois, in Search of Robert G. Ingersoll, Frederick Douglass, and Abraham Lincoln, Part 3

A page from Ernest East’s Abraham Lincoln Sees Peoria, published in 1939, in the collection of the Local History Room, Peoria Public Library

Listen to this podcast episode here or on Google Play, or subscribe on iTunes

Peoria, Illinois, July 28th, 2017, continued

From the 200 block of N Jefferson Ave between Hamilton Blvd and Fayette St, I zigzag my way south past Courtyard Square. According to Lewis Lehrman’s Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point, ‘Douglas and Lincoln probably stayed at Peoria House… at the corner of Adams and Hamilton Streets.’ Peoria House was a popular place for visitors to stay until it was destroyed by fire in 1896. According to Peoria Historical Society, it was replaced in 1908 by the grand Hotel Mayer, which, in turn, would burn down in 1963, when a drunken guest’s bedding caught fire and spread. The site is now occupied by a large Caterpillar office building.

Ernest East, however, writes in his Abraham Lincoln Sees Peoria that Lincoln definitely was a regular guest here. A contemporary newspaper report about one of these occasions, on March 27th, 1857, said ‘Hon. Abraham Lincoln is in our city and stopped at Peoria House… Read the written version here

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

New Podcast Episode: Peoria, Illinois, In Search of Robert G. Ingersoll, Frederick Douglass, and Abraham Lincoln, Part 2

Etching of the old Peoria County Courthouse on a granite wall at the new one, Peoria, IL. It shows the portico from which Lincoln delivered his famed Peoria Speech of October 16th, 1854

Listen to this podcast episode here or on Google Play, or subscribe on iTunes

Peoria, Illinois, July 28th, 2017, continued

~ Dedicated to Shannon Harrod Reyes

I leave the library and begin my afternoon’s site searches at the Peoria County Courthouse. Abraham Lincoln visited this courthouse many times over the years, on some occasions in his capacity as a lawyer and other times in association with his political career. There’s a statue of Lincoln here commemorating a particularly notable occasion: his delivery of a speech from the front portico of the old courthouse on October 16, 1854. This speech was composed and delivered in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, co-authored by Stephen A. Douglas. The Peoria Speech, as it’s now known, was part of a series that took place during that legislative election season where Douglas and Lincoln addressed and rebutted each other’s arguments, sometimes during the same event, sometimes separately. Their exchange would be revived four years later, notably in the series of seven formal debates of 1858. Douglas won that year’s Senate election with 54% of the vote, but Lincoln distinguished himself so well in that campaign season that he won the larger prize two years later. He was elected President in 1860, handily defeating his closest rival Douglas with a 10%+ lead… Read the written version here

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

Peoria, Illinois, in Search of Robert G. Ingersoll, Frederick Douglass, and Abraham Lincoln, Part 3

A page from Ernest East’s Abraham Lincoln Sees Peoria, published in 1939, in the collection of the Local History Room, Peoria Public Library

Peoria, Illinois, July 28th, 2017, continued

From the 200 block of N Jefferson Ave between Hamilton Blvd and Fayette St, I zigzag my way south past Courtyard Square. According to Lewis Lehrman’s Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point, ‘Douglas and Lincoln probably stayed at Peoria House… at the corner of Adams and Hamilton Streets.’ Peoria House was a popular place for visitors to stay until it was destroyed by fire in 1896. According to Peoria Historical Society, it was replaced in 1908 by the grand Hotel Mayer, which, in turn, would burn down in 1963, when a drunken guest’s bedding caught fire and spread. The site is now occupied by a large Caterpillar office building.

Ernest East, however, writes in his Abraham Lincoln Sees Peoria that Lincoln definitely was a regular guest here. A contemporary newspaper report about one of these occasions, on March 27th, 1857, said ‘Hon. Abraham Lincoln is in our city and stopped at Peoria House. Mr L., it will be borne in mind, is to be our next United States Senator. The people have decreed it–the next legislature will have only to ratify their nomination.’ The Peoria Republican proved overconfident, however. Though the Republicans won the popular vote, senators were then elected by the legislature, and due to some last minute political wrangling, Lincoln’s political sparring partner Stephen A. Douglas was awarded the office instead.

Mayer Hotel, 1907 to 1963, built at old Peoria House site at Adams and Hamilton, Peoria, Illinois

Lincoln had served one term in Congress, from 1848-1849. This was his highest office before being elected as President in 1860, which was almost twelve years later. As with my musings on my visit to Galesburg, Barack Obama comes to mind often when I think of the historical and political issues connected to Lincoln. After all, Obama’s presidency is, in some part, Lincoln’s legacy too. Obama was also elected President after serving as United States Senator, in his case serving seven years in Congress, as opposed to Lincoln’s less than two-year service with a several year gap between. Nevertheless, I remember many people complaining that Obama was unqualified, with far too little political experience. I don’t remember ever hearing this about Lincoln, though I’m certain this was a big issue for many voters at the time. Lincoln did, however, have a good deal of experience in the state legislature, and like Obama after him, was very experienced in the law. The proof’s in the pudding, I suppose, and the leadership abilities that Lincoln demonstrated throughout his Presidency had made us forget, so many years later, that he was not a seasoned statesman when he entered that office. We have yet to see how Obama’s legacy will fare with the test of time beyond the historical importance of the fact that an African-American was elected to two terms as President. I believe it will hold up fairly well, despite the unremitting and I think, unpardonably nasty opposition to every single one of his policy objectives while he was in office. And Obama’s grace and dignity under fire are beyond reproach, in my view. He certainly kept to the moral high ground.

Presidents Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln

Many readers might object to my characterization of Obama’s presidency as in any way a part of Lincoln’s legacy. After all, wasn’t Lincoln a racist and only a reluctant abolitionist? I reply, yes, both of those things are true, but the story is much more complicated. It’s also true that Lincoln evolved over time, in his heart as well as in his mind, and the evidence shows he came to believe that abolition was not only politically the best thing to do, but also the only morally right thing to do. Remember that Frederick Douglass met him, personally, on multiple occasions when Lincoln was President, and he came away from each of those meetings convinced that Lincoln was personally free from racial prejudice. Douglass was not a man to be fooled: he was a longtime and fierce critic of Lincoln’s, both before and after these meetings.

And remember too, that for all his imperfections, Lincoln was the lead man in actually getting that crucial, terribly stressful job of legally abolishing slavery done, facing down the vehement opposition at great cost to his own physical and mental health. Obama also went through this sort of political and moral transformation. He had initially opposed legal marriage equality for gay couples based primarily on his own religious beliefs. Nevertheless, what he learned in the process of leading this diverse nation of free people was sufficient to change his mind. Obama eventually offered his strong public support for the right of gay people to marry. He also nominated progressive justices to the Supreme Court who were more likely to consider marriage equality cases as matters of equal protection rather than matters of tradition. Which they did in 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which effectively legalized gay marriage, based on the grounds that denying it to gay couples violated 14th Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection. I hope that one day I’ll write about the first United States Presidency of a gay person being, in part, Obama’s legacy as well.

Caterpillar AB building at Adams and Hamilton, on the site of the old Peoria House and then the old Meyer Hotel in turn, opposite Courthouse Square in Peoria, Illinois. Abraham Lincoln stayed here many times, and Stephen A. Douglas may have stayed here as well.

Next, I seek the site of a building that stood near the old Mayer Hotel site a century after Lincoln stayed there. Robert G. Ingersoll first moved here to Peoria in 1857 as a young lawyer with his brother Ebon Clark Ingersoll, also a lawyer, who eventually became a congressman. They opened a law office at 4 Adams St ‘opposite the courthouse, on the second floor of a two-story frame house reached by an exterior staircase,’ according to his biographer Edward Garstin Smith. Today, the section of Adams St that’s across from Courthouse Square is entirely occupied by that huge Caterpillar office building, pictured above, that also covers the old Meyer Hotel site.

According to local historian Norman Kelly, the young Bob Ingersoll and about ten of his friends got themselves arrested in September of 1857, that first year he lived here. They had set a bonfire in the middle of Main Street, singing songs around it at two in the morning. Perhaps Ingersoll was just a little too excited about his new home! In any case, after they had sobered up, Ingersoll requested a trial where he would represent the whole bunch of carousers, including himself. He conquered the jury’s hearts and minds with his combination of impressive legal knowledge and droll humor, promising that he and his buddies would perform a rousing rendition of that same song for them if the jury would acquit… with the understanding that the acquittal would be in accordance with the evidence and the law, of course. An acquittal did follow, but the account doesn’t reveal whether the jury got their concert. I like to imagine they did.

According to a letter to his brother John in February of 1858, Ingersoll slept at the law offices and boarded at ‘the finest hotel in the city;’ Ebon and his wife lived elsewhere. So, for the most part, that law office on Adams Street was Ingersoll’s first home in Peoria.

Caterpillar welcome center, at the southeast corner of Main and Washington, on the site of the Ingersoll law office from 1873-1875

I walk one block south and west and stop at the southeast corner of Main and Washington Streets, where Ingersoll moved his law practice in 1873, three years after his tenure as Attorney General of Illinois and before he moved his solo practice to his home in 1876. His office was on the second floor of the Second National Bank building, which became the Peoria National Bank. Ingersoll had spent the intervening years making a living on the lecture circuit, in which he was very successful, and campaigning for Republican candidates for office.

The Clinton House was built in 1837 as a two-story brick hotel at Adams and Fulton Streets. It was destroyed by fire in 1853, and Schipper and Block department store was built on the site in about 1879. The name was changed to Block & Kuhl in 1914. Local History and Genealogy Collection, Peoria Public Library, Peoria, Illinois

Adams and Fulton Sts detail, Insurance Maps of Peoria, Sanborn 1927, Local History and Geneology Room, Peoria Public Library

I double back on Main one block north, then head left on SW Adams another block. The old Clinton House used to stand at Fulton and Adams Streets. The conversation I had with Chris Farris at the Local History and Geneology Department earlier today led me to the white terra cotta glazed two-story department store building that used to be Newberry’s. Therefore, I take photos of that location. However, the more I dig, the more I discover that can’t be the site. A closer reading of the Abraham Lincoln Sees Peoria account of Lincoln’s visit to the Clinton House, and double-checking the 1927 Sanborn map against postcards of the Clinton House and the Block & Kuhl Department Store that was built on the site, reveal that the Block & Kuhl department store, and thus the Clinton House, stood on the other side of the street. The old Chase Bank Building stands there now.

Chase Bank Building, photo by Dave Zalaznik, use courtesy of Peoria Journal Star, Illinois

Former Chase Bank Building which stands at the former site of Clinton House and then the Block & Kuhl department store, photo by Dave Zalaznik, use courtesy of Peoria Journal Star

Aerial view of Adams and Fulton with the ‘The Big White Store’ Block & Kuhl, once Schipper & Block, now the site of the old Chase Bank Building and once the site of the old Clinton House, Peoria IL, Local History & Geneology Collection, Peoria Public Library

Selection from the Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer, February 15, 1840, p 3, Library of Congress

More digging for details of the Clinton House and Lincoln’s visit here uncovers a newspaper announcement of the re-opening of Clinton Hall to the public under John King’s management. The Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer published this on February 15th, 1840, but the announcement includes an earlier date: November 16, 1839. Therefore, King had already been running the house for nearly 3 months when Lincoln and 120 other men dined here on February 10, 1840. The dinner followed a rally for Whig presidential candidate William Henry Harrison on February 10th, 1840, at which Lincoln spoke.

Lincoln was a committed Whig before he joined the Republican Party, which was formed 14 years after the Harrison rally. As a Whig, he supported protectionist policies such as high tariffs on imported goods, intended to boost American wages and industry. Today, this sort of policy is more likely to be found on the Democratic side of the political aisle, but not always. Bernie Sanders’ platform, in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, included many protectionist policies, but our current Republican president Donal Trump has also advocated slapping high taxes on imports. I wonder what Lincoln would think now, given the additional economic evidence from the past 150-plus years. I don’t believe, myself, that protectionism helps labor in the long run, neither here nor abroad: it blocks access to goods that people need and want and keeps too many out of the workforce. Such tariffs are based on the idea that the marketplace is a zero-sum game, like trying to make and share a pie when only one size tin is available. In reality, however, the more people who can and do participate in making the pie, there’s no market-imposed limits to the size. (There are ecological limits, but that’s another story.) It takes regulation, not tariffs, to ensure that a few greedy gobblers don’t keep others from enjoying the bounty too.

Robert Ingersoll as a Civil War commander, early 1860’s

I pass through the Fulton Street Plaza, where the street narrows to form a walking path through a small park between Adams St and Jefferson Ave, and head back along Main St.

There are three addresses on Main Street that I seek, but the given addresses don’t match the old atlases I have access to, nor are there specified landmarks except a mention of proximity to the Courthouse: 1) In 1861, Robert and Ebon Ingersoll moved their law office from the one they had opened at 4 Adams St in 1857 to 55 Main St, 2) In 1865, now a married man, a Civil War veteran, and a father of two, Ingersoll’s office moved again to 45 Main St when city attorney S.D. Puterbaugh joined the practice; Ebon had left in 1864 to enter Congress, where he would serve for 7 years, and 3) in 1868, Ingersoll moved the office to 46 Main St when he took on another law partner, Eugene McCune, the city prosecutor. I don’t have a story right now in connection with these particular locations, but I may as well share these facts since I’ve obtained them, in case they may be useful to another doing historical research.

Civic Center from N William Kumpf Blvd, near site of old AME Episcopal Church, Peoria, Illinois

Frederick Douglass, ca. 1870 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

I make my way next to a site that used to be at Fifth and Monson, but both those streets have disappeared under the vast pavement of the Peoria Civic Center on N William Kumpf Blvd. Somewhere under all this asphalt and the sprawling concrete sports and events edifice used to stand the Ward Chapel African Methodist Church. Douglass spoke here in Peoria for the last time on February 7th, 1870 to this congregation and their guests. The address he delivered on that occasion is titled ‘Our Composite Nationality.’ The membership of all races in one great human family was among Douglass’ favorite themes, and this conviction drove Douglass’ work as a champion for many human rights causes: for the rights of Chinese and other foreign-born immigrants and citizens; for universal suffrage; for freedom of thought and religion; for improved conditions and wages for laboring people; for providing education to the disadvantaged; for just treatment of  Native Americans; for prosecuting lynchers; and for many, many more.

On this day Douglass said,

‘I am told there is objection to this mixing of races. We do not know what the original race was. It does not matter whether there was one Adam, a dozen Adams or 500 Adams. ‘A man’s a man for a’ that.’ [I love this inclusion of a line of Scottish poetry. I’m planning a series about Douglass here in Scotland while I’m living here for the next year.] I begin with manhood. Smiles and tears have no nationality. My two eyes tell me I have a right to see, my two hands, that I have a right to work. Almond eyes are not solely peculiar to the Chinaman. Hues of skin not confined to one race… I close, as I began, in hopes for the republic. Let us rejoice in a common sympathy and a common nationality supporting each other in peace and war, and to the security of a common country.’

Hear, hear, Mr. Douglass. We could really use you here today. Many carry on your fight for social justice but few with your power, eloquence, and wisdom. (And handsome face.)

Facing the northeast corner of Globe and Hamilton, former site of the Tabernacle, Peoria

The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, July 24, 1899, out of W. Virginia, from Chronicling America, Library of Congress

My last stop of the day is half a mile north on my way back to my hotel room, so I pick up the car from where it’s parked near the Peoria Public Library, and drive uphill towards the big OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. When I arrive, I find a brand new parking lot and medical building at the northeast corner of Hamilton Blvd and Globe St, the UnityPoint Health Methodist Ambulatory Surgery building. It’s so new that Google Maps still shows nothing at the site but freshly leveled dirt and huge pipes ready to go into the ground.

This was the site of the Tabernacle, a huge octagonal multi-purpose structure built in 1894. A memorial service was held here for Ingersoll on July 24th, 1899 three days after his death. He was not buried in Peoria; he had moved to Washington D.C. in 1878, once again opening a law office with his brother, and then moved back to his native state of New York in 1885. His ashes were interred in Arlington National Cemetary since he was a Civil War veteran. But Ingersoll was among Peoria’s most famous and treasured adopted sons, having lived here for a little over 20 years. So, it was wise to hold his memorial service in such a large space.

Looking back at Peoria’s downtown skyline from this rise, I’m treated to a lovely view. What a nice location for the city to pay tribute to one of its beloved former citizens.

View of downtown Peoria from near the former site of the Tabernacle at Hamilton and Globe

One more thing: Lincoln spoke briefly but memorably once at the Main St Presbyterian Church in the summer of 1844. I dig and dig but have the hardest time locating the site of that church. There was a very tiny congregation of Presbyterians co-founded by Lincoln’s good friends Lucy and Moses Pettengill in 1834 who, by the way, ran an important stop on the Underground Railroad from their home on Liberty and Jefferson. This Presbyterian congregation split into two: New School and Old School. Each one moved and changed named multiple times, especially the second one, so I don’t ever succeed in obtaining a photo of the 1844 New School Main Street church which Lincoln spoke at. But I do find a description of the location in East’s biography: the church was ‘situated on the lot above the alley adjoining the present Alliance Life Company building.’ The then-present Alliance Life Company building is the now-present Commerce Bank building, which is my second stop of the afternoon in search of the site of Rouse’s Hall where Frederick Douglass spoke on at least three occasions. I find no map which shows the location of that old alley, but it’s somewhere near where that long low 1960’s concrete building is in the photo above.

Commerce Bank, once the Alliance Life Company Building, Peoria, Illinois

Lincoln’s speaking appearance was an impromptu one this time: he was in town for a court appearance when he was persuaded to debate Colonel William May. May was a lawyer and former Congressman who started out as a fellow Whig, switched to run for Congress as a Democrat, switched back again to support Whig William Henry Harrison, and was a Democrat again by the time Lincoln accepted this debate. Why Lincoln did so, I don’t know. The terms of the debate were so circumscribed, including a ban on discussing May’s political career, that it doesn’t sound like an enticing opportunity to me, given the plentiful fodder that May’s checkered history would provide for a vigorous and entertaining exchange.

Apparently, Lincoln thought so too. May, who was also a respected debater, used the latter portion of his time to rip apart the Whig party, comparing it to a liberty pole that looked nice from the outside but had actually been weakly spliced together from disparate elements, with dry rot leaving a gaping hole in the center. After May had left that door wide open for him, Lincoln couldn’t help but walk through it. He stood up and responded ‘Why, Colonel, that is the hole you left when you crawled out of the Whig party.’ After Lincoln followed with the suggestion that the hole be filled up so May couldn’t crawl back in, the crowd started laughing and arguing, the Whigs delighted, the Democrats angry that Lincoln had violated the terms of the debate. He acknowledged the latter and apologized, I think insincerely since he remarked that the opportunity was just too good to resist. The hubbub did not die down, and the debate meeting broke up.

See? I told you before that Lincoln was a funny man.

*Listen to the podcast version here or on Google Play, or subscribe on iTunes

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sources and inspiration:

Ballance, Charles. The History of Peoria, Illinois. Peoria: N.C. Nason, 1870.

Blassingame, J. (Ed.). The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series One: Speeches, Debates, and Interviews. 4 volumes, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979-1999

Carwardine, Richard. Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power. New York: Random House, 2003

Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995

Douglass, Frederick. The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, 1881.

East, Ernest E. Abraham Lincoln Sees Peoria: An Historical and Pictorial Record of Seventeen Visits from 1832 to 1858. Peoria, 1939

Garrett, Romeo B. Famous First Facts About Negroes. New York: Arno Press, 1972

Garrett, Romeo B. The Negro in Peoria, 1973 (manuscript is in the Peoria Public Library’s Local History & Genealogy Collection)

Herndon, William H. and Jesse W. Weik. Herndon’s Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life. 1889

Hoffman, R. Joseph. ‘Robert Ingersoll: God and Man in Peoria‘. The Oxonian, Nov 13, 2011

Hubbell, John T., James W. Geary, and Jon L. Wakelyn. Biographical Dictionary of the Union: Northern Leaders of the Civil War. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995

Kelly. John. ‘Robert Ingersoll, the ‘Great Agnostic’.’ The Washington Post, Aug 11, 2012

Kelly, Norm. ‘Peoria’s Own Robert Ingersoll‘, Peoria Magazines website, Feb 2016

Leyland, Marilyn. ‘Frederick Douglass and Peoria’s Black History‘, Peoria Magazines website, Feb 2005

Lehrman, Lewis E. Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois. Website, National Park Service

Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer, February 15, 1840, page 3. Library of Congress

Peoria Speech, October 16, 1854‘. Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois website, National Park Service

Smith, Edward Garstin. The Life and Reminiscences of Robert G. Ingersoll. New York: The National Weekly Publishing Co, 1904

Wakefield, Elizabeth Ingersoll, ed. The Letters of Robert Ingersoll. New York: Philosophical Library, 1951

The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, W. Virginia, July 24th, 1899. From Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress

Peoria, Illinois, In Search of Robert G. Ingersoll, Frederick Douglass, and Abraham Lincoln, Part 2

Etching of the old Peoria County Courthouse on a granite wall at the new one, Peoria, IL. It shows the portico from which Lincoln delivered his famed Peoria Speech of October 16th, 1854

Peoria, Illinois, July 28th, 2017, continued

~ Dedicated to Shannon Harrod Reyes

I leave the library and begin my afternoon’s site searches at the Peoria County Courthouse. Abraham Lincoln visited this courthouse many times over the years, on some occasions in his capacity as a lawyer and other times in association with his political career. There’s a statue of Lincoln here commemorating a particularly notable occasion: his delivery of a speech from the front portico of the old courthouse on October 16, 1854. This speech was composed and delivered in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, co-authored by Stephen A. Douglas. The Peoria Speech, as it’s now known, was part of a series that took place during that legislative election season where Douglas and Lincoln addressed and rebutted each other’s arguments, sometimes during the same event, sometimes separately. Their exchange would be revived four years later, notably in the series of seven formal debates of 1858. Douglas won that year’s Senate election with 54% of the vote, but Lincoln distinguished himself so well in that campaign season that he won the larger prize two years later. He was elected President in 1860, handily defeating his closest rival Douglas with a 10%+ lead.

The Peoria County Courthouse as it appears today, Peoria, Illinois

It was this 1854 speech delivered here in Peoria, however, that’s widely credited with first putting Lincoln on the political map in a big way. Lincoln had mostly withdrawn from politics, having served many years in the Illinois state legislature but only winning one term in higher office in 1846 in the United States House of Representatives. The furor over the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which effectively repealed the Missouri Compromise and opened the door to the expansion of slavery, drove Lincoln back into politics, by his own account. He had always been rather reticent about the slavery issue, concerned that too much controversy over it would destabilize the country. The recent passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act was only one of the many major events that revealed the controversy was unavoidable.

The Trial of John Brown by Horace Pippin, 1942 at the De Young Museum, San Francisco, CA. John Brown was one of those who led abolitionists into Kansas territory to combat pro-slavery advocates, and in the process, indiscriminately killed pro-slavery settlers. He led the unsuccessful raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859 and was executed for treason.

For one thing, Kansas-Nebraska Act’s underlying political doctrine of popular sovereignty, where the states could decide on the legalization of slavery themselves by vote, led to such extreme regional disputes as Bleeding Kansas. People flooded into the territory (Kansas was not yet a state) to push the vote one way or another through violence as well as numbers. Those on the pro-slavery side wanted to preserve the political power of the slave states and to be able to settle in Kansas with their slaves if they so chose. Those opposing slavery wanted to keep slavery out of Kansas as a matter of principle and, more often, to make it a place where people could make a new life for themselves without having to compete with slaves for jobs and with wealthy slave-plantation owners for land.

Secondly, while attractive to many from both sides at first glance, the principle of popular sovereignty revealed its weaknesses over time and proved deadly to Douglas’ political career. Abolitionists and other free state citizens did not want to abide by fugitive slave laws which required that free states return escaped slaves, and did not want to protect the right of visitors to own slaves within their borders. They saw this as an imposition of slavery into territories that abolished it. Slave states regarded the refusal to return escaped slaves as an attack on their property rights, and an unfair limit on their right to travel freely from state to state. Popular sovereignty turned out to harm, not help, the cause of preserving the Union.

Statue of Abraham Lincoln outside the Peoria County Courthouse commemorating his Oct 16, 1854 speech here

The Peoria speech was Lincoln’s second public delivery of his first detailed and straightforward denunciation of slavery on moral grounds. While the speech did not promote the national abolition of slavery, Lincoln made the historical case that Thomas Jefferson was a reluctant slave-owner caught up in a social institution that he abhorred, but like slave-owners of Lincoln’s day, he felt trapped in it. So, Jefferson hoped and planned for its gradual dissolution. He used his influence to make sure the Northwest Ordinances of 1787 and ’89 banned slavery in all new territories of the United States, shifting the balance of political power away from the slave states and towards those states whose prosperity resulted from the industry of free people. Lincoln argued that continuing to prevent the spread of slavery was the only way to realize Jefferson’s hope while doing what was politically possible to assuage the evils of slavery until it faded away naturally. Though we, with Frederick Douglass, might be scornful of and impatient with Lincoln’s apparent have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too attitude towards slavery as a terrible moral evil but allowable in the South if it held the Union together, the speech contains the outline of the basic moral principles underlying Lincoln’s increasingly anti-slavery platform as his presidency and the Civil War progressed.

The version of the Peoria speech that’s come down to us was transcribed by Lincoln himself for publication in Springfield’s Illinois Daily Journal, in seven issues on October 21st, then the 23rd-28th, 1854. This is lucky for us as few transcripts of that series of exchanges between Douglas and Lincoln survive. Lincoln had delivered the first version of this speech in Springfield and had clarified and refined it, as well as making a few changes to tailor it to the Peoria audience.

Commerce Bank at the approximate site of old Rouse’s Hall at Main St and Jefferson Ave, Peoria.

Frederick Douglass ambrotype, 1856, by an unknown photographer, image public domain via Wikimedia Commons. He spoke in Peoria in Rouse’s Hall about three years after this picture was taken.

Then I head to Jefferson and Main, to the site of Rouse’s Hall. Frederick Douglass lectured here on February 25th, 1859, and according to the Peoria Daily Transcript newspaper, his speech was so well received that Douglass decided to add a follow-up one a few days later. The Transcript reported that ‘appreciative and intelligent’ audience braved the weather in large numbers to hear this famous orator speak.

In the first speech, Douglass presented his argument that all human races had a common origin, supporting his views with ‘history, philosophy, and science’. He was not making a Darwinian case since On the Origin of Species would not be published until the fall of that same year. The Transcript also reported that the speech included an argument about slavery which ‘he had not yet exhausted,’ so presumably Douglass was presenting the larger case that since all human beings belong to a common natural family, there can be no claims of superiority that would justify one branch of this family oppressing another.

In their notice of the second speech scheduled for March 1st, the Transcript predicted that the crowd would be even larger, given the enthusiasm of the audience during the last one and the fact that this one was better advertised. They also confirmed that Douglass revealed the true ‘heinousness of Slavery’ by showing how black and white people belonged to the same human family, with the same ‘inherent faculties of the soul.’ Douglass, proclaimed the Transcript, was living proof that natural genius is to be found in all races in equal measure, and all it takes for the black race to achieve its potential and improve their faculties is to enjoy equal access to all that culture has to offer. One of the ways for his fellow black citizens to do so, Douglass said, was self-improvement: since they were not given equal chances to improve themselves, they must take their chances into their own hands as far as possible until legal and social equality was achieved.

Writing about ‘Our Recent Western Tour’ in Douglass’ Monthly, published the next month of April, 1859, Douglass spoke optimistically of the future, based on the mostly warm welcome he and his fellow speakers had received during the tour. In years past, he had often been subject to humiliation and rude treatment by audience members and people of the towns he traveled to. This time, he wrote, they were usually treated with courtesy, respect, and friendship, and the number of committed abolitionists seemed to be ever-increasing. As Douglass wrote, ‘We think a Negro lecturer an excellent thermometer of the state of public opinion on the subject of slavery…’ Though he found the overall temperature warming, he still encountered some chill between-times, as the next story will reveal.

Rouse’s Hall, image courtesy of Peoria Public Library

Robert Ingersoll in 1868. This photo would have been taken around the time that Frederick Douglass would have called on him in Peoria, when Ingersoll was about 35 years old, a married father of two, and the Attorney General of Illinois.

This also happens to be one of my favorite stories about Robert Ingersoll. It likely occurred during one of Frederick Douglass’ return visits here for an 1867 speech at Rouse’s Hall. This year is consistent with Douglass’ account: it must have happened in the late 1860’s since Douglass wrote it was ‘a dozen years ago or more’ in his final autobiography, 1881’s The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. For all of the Transcript’s glowing review of his speeches and the audience’s enthusiasm, Douglass recalled finding little welcome offstage here on his first visit, so he dreaded going back. Perhaps he wouldn’t even be able to find a hotel that would accommodate him at all! Douglass mentioned this to a friend who he was staying with in Elmwood, a previous stop on his speaking tour. This friend said to him, ‘I know a man in Peoria, should the hotels be closed against you there, who would gladly open his doors to you – a man who would receive you at any hour of the night, and in any weather, and that man is Robert J. Ingersoll.’ (He got the middle initial wrong.) Douglass expressed concern about disturbing his family and was glad he didn’t have to since the ‘best hotel’ gave him a room. But he was intrigued his friend’s description of Ingersoll’s hospitable and unbiased personality, and about his ‘infidel’ views (these quotes are Douglass’ own, presumably tongue in cheek. Douglass was a religious skeptic in many ways himself). So Douglass went to call on the Ingersoll family at home the next morning. Douglass went on to describe the warmth of his welcome in fulsome terms, and to point out that this ‘infidel’ gave him a more Christian welcome than anyone who would define themselves that way ever had. His impression of Ingersoll’s face with its expression of ‘real living human sunshine’, I notice as I reread Douglass’ story, accords with the one I wrote in the first part of this account: ‘He has the face of a ready and kindly friend.’

In that March 6th, 1867 speech at Rouse’s Hall, Douglass spoke of the temperature dropping once again. The Civil War had ended just under two years before, and the North had not yet sorted out what they perceived as ‘the Negro problem.’ Even many of the most ardent Abolitionists were not ready to accept black people as equal members of their own communities. Like Lincoln had for most of his life, they considered slavery wrong but didn’t think that black and white people were fully if at all compatible as friends, coworkers, fellow politicians, and so on; certainly not as romantic partners. And many still thought condescendingly of freed black people as some kind of amorphous mass of downtrodden creatures that should be humbly grateful for the new freedoms that were bestowed on them, and therefore not demand too much. Douglass, of course, rejected this view. Black people had fought, and fought hard, for their own freedom, and those who fought with them, while brave and often motivated by sincerely held moral beliefs, were also acting in their own interests. The test of whether the emancipation of the black race was a true one, consistent with our American principles laid out in our founding documents, was to see how well the United States protected the rights of black people from there on out.

Parking lot where Robert Ingersoll’s mansion and then the National Hotel used to stand, at the north corner of Jefferson Ave and Hamilton St, kitty-corner from the Peoria County Courthouse

Period view of Robert Ingersoll’s grand house at Jefferson and Hamilton, image from the Robert Ingersoll Birthplace Museum webpage

In 1876, Robert Ingersoll took his law practice solo and moved his office into his third and final Peoria home at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Hamilton Street. The Ingersoll family lived here until they returned to New York in 1877. All three locations of Ingersoll’s homes, by the way, are taken from Edward Garstin Smith’s The Life and Reminiscences of Robert G. Ingersoll. Smith provides street corners and some landmarks, but since he gives us no street numbers, doesn’t specify north, south, east, and west, and most of the landmarks have changed, I don’t always know just where to photograph. He does tell us that the National Hotel was later built on the site of this home, and Ingersoll’s ‘splendid mansion,’ a four-story affair, was ‘moved to the side of the lot’ of the hotel. Then, with further digging, I find an old postcard of the National Hotel site on the Local History and Genealogy Collection of the Peoria Public Library’s website. Once again, they come through admirably!

Peoria National Hotel postcard, pre-1911, courtesy of US Genealogy Express. This hotel was built on the site of the Ingersoll family’s third and final home in Peoria.

Another image of the New National Hotel at the former site of Robert G. Ingersoll’s home at the northeast corner of Jefferson & Hamilton. It was built 1883 and razed in 1970, having suffered a fire. It’s now a parking lot. Local History and Genealogy Collection, Peoria Public Library, Peoria, Illinois

Corner of Main and Jefferson, Peoria, IL, pre-WWI, Local History and Geneology Collection, Peoria Public Library, IL.

The first home of Ingersoll in Peoria, which he rented, was in the 100 block of North Jefferson Ave, between Main St and Hamilton Blvd, and at the time Smith wrote his biography of Ingersoll, the site was occupied by the YMCA building. This site would likely be across the street from the Courthouse square; it’s my understanding that no other buildings ever occupied the square, based on all the old photos and atlases I could find of Peoria. That would place it somewhere near the Rouse’s Hall site, perhaps to the north of it where the tall building next to Commerce Bank is now. (See the Commerce Bank at Main St and Jefferson Ave photo above.)

N Jefferson Ave between Hamilton & Fayette, Ingersoll's house stood about where the 1st building on left does now 2017 Amy Cools

N. Jefferson Ave between Hamilton and Fayette. Ingersoll’s second house in Peoria stood about where the first building on left does now

Ingersoll’s second home, which he also rented, was on North Jefferson Ave as well, on the 200 block between Hamilton and Fayette. It was still standing when Smith wrote his biography in 1904. This may be where Ingersoll lived when he met and married his wife, and perhaps where they lived when their daughters were born; Smith doesn’t provide a timeline for their moves between each house. Ingersoll married Eva Amelia Parker in February 1862, and his daughters Eva Robert Ingersoll and Maud Robert Ingersoll were born in 1863 and 1864, respectively. So he had already completed his time of service in the Civil War then he settled down to make a family with Eva.

As I’ve written before, Ingersoll was a dedicated family man. He spoke eloquently and movingly of the joys of family life. It was a home filled with love and mutual respect, by all accounts. No wonder Ingersoll’s face almost invariably looks so amiable and friendly in photos! There’s a card I discover among the digital archives from the Robert Ingersoll Papers in the collection of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library which includes a photograph of Ingersoll cuddling two of his grandchildren over a poem he wrote titled, simply, ‘Love.’ I’ll leave you with this as I end this part of my account of my day in Peoria, and I’ll pick up the rest of the tale very soon

Farrell, C. P., “Robert Ingersoll, Love,” Chronicling Illinois, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library

*Listen to the podcast version here or on Google Play, or subscribe on iTunes

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sources and inspiration:

Blassingame, J. (Ed.). The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series One: Speeches, Debates, and Interviews. 4 volumes, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979-1999

Carwardine, Richard. Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power. New York: Random House, 2003

Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995

Douglass, Frederick. The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, 1881.

East, Ernest E. Abraham Lincoln Sees Peoria: An Historical and Pictorial Record of Seventeen Visits from 1832 to 1858. Peoria, 1939

Electoral history of Abraham Lincoln‘. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

Foner, Philip S. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Vol. II. New York: International Publishers, 1950.

Garrett, Romeo B. Famous First Facts About Negroes. New York: Arno Press, 1972

Garrett, Romeo B. The Negro in Peoria, 1973 (manuscript is in the Peoria Public Library’s Local History & Genealogy Collection)

Herndon, William H. and Jesse W. Weik. Herndon’s Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life. 1889

Hoffman, R. Joseph. ‘Robert Ingersoll: God and Man in Peoria‘. The Oxonian, Nov 13, 2011

Insurance Maps of Peoria, Volume 1. Sanborn Map Company of New York, 1927. (Showing the street numbers before they changed in 1958)

Kelly, Norm. ‘The Hall That Rouse Built‘, Peoria Magazines website, Feb 2015

Kelly, Norm. ‘Peoria’s Own Robert Ingersoll‘, Peoria Magazines website, Feb 2016

Leyland, Marilyn. ‘Frederick Douglass and Peoria’s Black History‘, Peoria Magazines website, Feb 2005

Lehrman, Lewis E. Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008.

Lincoln Draws the Line’, Peoria, IL – posted by KG1960 on Waymarking.com

Lincoln, Abraham. ‘Peoria Speech, October 16, 1854.’ via the National Park Service’s Lincoln Home National Historic Site website and ‘Abraham Lincoln’s speech at Peoria, Illinois: [Oct. 16, 1854] in reply to Senator Douglas‘. Seven numbers of the Illinois Daily Journal, Springfield, Oct. 21, 23-28, 1854. [Peoria, Ill.: E. J. Jacob]

Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois. Website, National Park Service

MacMillan, Lois. ‘Close Reading: Speech at Peoria, October 16, 1854‘, published at Quora: Understanding Lincoln

Peck, Graham. ‘New Records of the Lincoln-Douglas Debate at the 1854 Illinois State Fair: The Missouri Republican and the Missouri Democrat‘. Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Volume 30, Issue 2, Summer 2009, pp. 25-80

Peoria Speech, October 16, 1854‘. Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois website, National Park Service

Smith, Edward Garstin. The Life and Reminiscences of Robert G. Ingersoll. New York: The National Weekly Publishing Co, 1904

Wakefield, Elizabeth Ingersoll, ed. The Letters of Robert Ingersoll. New York: Philosophical Library, 1951

The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, W. Virginia, July 24th, 1899. From Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress

Photobook: Alexander Thomas Augusta, Highest Ranking Black Officer in the Civil War

‘Alexander Thomas Augusta was the highest-ranking black officer in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was also the first African American head of a hospital (Freedmen’s Hospital) and the first black professor of medicine (Howard University in Washington, D.C… On April 14, 1863, Augusta was commissioned (the first out of eight other black officers in the Civil War) as a major in the Union army and appointed head surgeon in the 7th U.S. Colored Infantry’ – Blackpast.org. I took this photo at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, while on my history of ideas travels following the life and work of Frederick Douglass last spring

Frederick Douglass Baltimore Sites

Home where Amy 's host family lives in Garrison, MD, in a post-Civil War freedman's settlement, photo March 2016 by Amy Cools

Home where my host family lives in Garrison, MD, in a post-Civil War freedman’s settlement

First day, Sunday, March 20th

So here I am on the East Coast, commencing my Frederick Douglass history of ideas travel adventure in earnest! I’m thrilled and know I’ll learn and see a lot since I have so many sites I plan to visit already and know I’ll discover more as I go along.

I wake up still undecided whether to begin my Douglass explorations on the East Shore of Maryland or in Baltimore proper. I was leaning toward the Shore to keep my account more chronologically aligned with Douglass’s life, but inclement weather, the Maryland Historical Society’s open hours, a lost document, and a bit of oversleeping decided for me: a delayed start made it best to keep today’s journeys closer to home away from home. So, Baltimore it is!

Fell's Point, Baltimore MD, photo March 2016 by Amy Cools

Fell’s Point, Baltimore, Maryland

Aliceanna and Durham Streets, Baltimore, Maryland March 2016, photo by Amy Cools

Aliceanna and Durham Streets, Baltimore, Maryland

In a very important way, it’s actually fitting to begin with Douglass’ life here in Baltimore, centered in the waterfront district of Fell’s Point, since this is where Frederick Douglass had one of the most formative experiences of his life.

It happened in a ‘spare, narrow house at the corner of an alley’, Happy Alley, off Alliceanna Street at S. Durham. This was Douglass’s first home with the Hugh Auld family, composed of shipbuilder Hugh, his wife Sophia, and their little son Tommy. Douglass, a child of just seven or eight himself, was imported from the plantation to be Tommy’s companion and body servant.

There used to be a sign marking this street corner as a Douglass historical site, but it’s disappeared (you can see the two silvery clamps still strapped under the street name signs). Perhaps people in the neighborhood were tired of being bothered by tourists asking where the exact house is. I have no shame, so I bother a young man with my inquiries. He doesn’t happen to know about that historical tidbit but is interested to hear the story; he happens to pass me by again a little while later, pulls over, and asks for the website so he can check in later and see what I find out, so I know he isn’t just being polite; he certainly is very kind.

Site of Frederick Douglass' home with the Aulds at Aliceanna and S. Durham, Fell's Point, Baltimore, MD, photo March 2016 by Amy Cools

Site of Frederick Douglass’ home with the Aulds at Aliceanna and S. Durham, Fell’s Point, Baltimore, MD

And another nice person, a woman entering her home in the very new-looking building on the southeast corner of Alliceanna and S. Durham does know, however, and confirms that building below, as far as she knows, stands on the very site of the old Auld house. She, for one, hopes the sign will go back up.

So back to that formative experience: Sophia Auld thought it would be a good idea to teach Douglass how to read since he was companion and body servant to the young son of the household and could thus aid in his education. But when Hugh came into the room and saw her teaching Douglass his letters, he stopped her, telling her in his hearing that ‘[he] should know nothing but how to obey his master …if you teach [him] how to read, there will be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave…’ As Douglass told it later, this is the moment he realized the full inhumanity of the slave system, and knew exactly what he needed to do. No enforced ignorance for Douglass!

Lancaster St, end where Gardiner's and Meacham's shipyards used to be, Fell's Point, Baltimore MD, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

Lancaster St, end where Gardiner’s and Beacham’s shipyards used to be, Fell’s Point, Baltimore MD

Then I head down to the end of Lancaster St, about where Douglass worked at James Beacham’s shipyard in 1826, close to William Gardiner’s shipyard where he received more advanced training, upon returning to Baltimore in 1836 after three years back on the East Shore. He had another formative experience at Gardiner’s which I’ll tell you about shortly. Douglass worked on many shipyards and became a skilled caulker over time, earning him enough wages that Hugh was willing to let him keep some, unaware Douglass was saving up to start a new life as a free man one day.

Boats docked at end of Lancaster and Thames Streets, Fell's Point, Photo 2016 Amy Cools

Boats docked at end of Lancaster and Thames Streets, Fell’s Point

I head west on Thames St. At number 12 or 13, Douglass purchased the first book he ever owned at Nathaniel Knight’s shop at 28 Thames St, The Columbian Orator. The buildings are numbered very differently now, and at the time I write this post, I’ve yet to find an early atlas with street addresses. Fell’s Point is clearly a moneyed area, and large sections of Thames St has been built over with luxury condos, especially on the waterfront side. The other side of the street retains more of its older buildings, and all is very well kept and very charming.

A view of Thames St, Fell's Point, Baltimore MD, photo 2016 Amy Cools

A view of Thames St, Fell’s Point, Baltimore MD

I continue on to the very end of Thames St, heading west to the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum.

Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum Fell's Pt, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum, Fell’s Point

Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Museum Sign, Fell's Pt, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Museum Sign, Fell’s Point

The sculpture I find here of his head, though striking, looks a little odd just sitting on the ground as it is; I find myself instinctively looking around for the body it fell off of. Perhaps they’ll give it a new setting at some point.

Frederick Douglass sculpture at Maritime Park Fell's Pt, photo 1, 2016 by Amy Cools

Frederick Douglass sculpture at Maritime Park Fell’s Point

Frederick Douglass sculpture at Maritime Park Fell's Pt, photo 2, 2016 by Amy Cools

Frederick Douglass sculpture at Maritime Park, with sign

Then I head right, around to Philpot St, where Douglass also lived with the Auld family (they moved around the Fell’s Point neighborhood a few times). The Maritime Park Museum actually faces onto it at least as much as it does onto Thames. Here, little Douglass obtained the help of his playmates to build on the fragmentary education he had received from Sophia and really learn to read. Some neighborhood boys helped him out, and though he never named them in his narrative for fear they’ll be criticized for this, he thanked them anonymously.

S Caroline and Block St corner by Philpot St, Fell's Point, photo 2016 Amy Cools

Corner of S. Caroline and Block St by Philpot St, Fell’s Point

The little loop of a street which remains that’s still called Philpot St on Google Maps, though there are no identifying street signs, is at the west end of Thames behind Block and S. Caroline. It curves around to where the Maritime Museum and Park overlook the harbor, and you can see Domino Sugars factory in the background across the water. The area where the Auld house was, and perhaps where Douglass played and read with his friends at Durgin and Bailey’s shipyard, is now flattened, with all signs that there ever was a street here, let alone a neighborhood, obliterated and under new construction.

Then I backtrack a little on Thames towards Bond St. If you look closely, you can see this view of Bond St is at Shakespeare St; Douglass grew to love William Shakespeare.

Bond St at Shakespeare, Fell's Point, Baltimore MD, photo 20156 by Amy Cools

Bond St at Shakespeare St, Fell’s Point

The occasion which took Douglass to Bond St, and which takes me here next too, was a sad one. Since he had become a skilled caulker at Gardiner’s shipyard, his work was very much in demand, especially as an enslaved black man who commanded lower wages than skilled white workers. Baltimore’s shipyards employed many skilled black workers on its busy waterfront, paying them all lower wages, and the white workers felt deeply resentful at this threat to their livelihood. So one day, when Douglass was perhaps sixteen, he was severely beaten by four of his coworkers. Auld was very angry, both because, as Douglass believed, he was genuinely concerned about his well-being and considered what they had done cruel and unjust, and, of course, he did not want his prized source of income to lose his ability to work. So he accompanied Douglass to magistrate William Watson’s office on Bond St. Again, as of this date, I can find no specific street address; when and if I do, I’ll let you know.

But to Auld’s chagrin, Watson refused to arrest the men or do anything about the crime at all: although the evidence a crime had been committed was presented in Douglass’s own battered face, only a white man’s testimony was legally admissible. The indignity and injustice of this were yet more striking evidence for Douglass that slavery was a great evil, strengthening his conviction that he must find a way to gain his freedom.

Then back up Bond to Aliceanna again, to grab a snack and better wifi connectivity at Cafe Latte’da, a punk rock-y comfy little hole in the wall coffee shop. It’s right around the corner from Jimmy’s Restaurant and Fountain Service on S. Broadway, where I had begun with a delicious breakfast of tater tots topped with pulled pork and cole slaw. If you’re like me and love comfy, well-established eateries with down to earth food and atmosphere, I recommend these two.

Fell St at Thames and Ann, Fell's Point, Baltimore Md, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

Fell St at Thames and Ann, Fell’s Point, Baltimore Md

Then back to Fell St at Thames and Ann, which I had overlooked on my first go-round, but it’s no problem since the waterfront part of Fell’s Point is pretty small and very walkable. Douglass lived on Fell’s St with Hugh Auld when he returned to his service in Baltimore in late 1836. Again, Douglass gave no address. Hugh thought he’d be less likely to try to escape if he had more interesting employment in an environment which better suited him, enjoying more independence through retaining part of his wages and eventually, living in a place of his own. At this point, Douglass had become an expert caulker and could command much better wages despite his race and status as a slave. When Douglass did live on his own for awhile, there was an episode where Douglass didn’t return from a weekend outing to the Fell St house in time, and Auld was enraged. He threatened to take away the independence he had granted Douglass up to this point and to make him move back home.

Thames St Park bordered also by Lancaster and Wolfe, Fell's Pt, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

Thames St Park bordered also by Lancaster and Wolfe, Fell’s Point

Since I’m back near the east end of Thames, I go back towards the end of Wolfe Street since I had found another secondary resource, a Baltimore Sun article, on my coffee break. I’m looking again for the site of Gardiner’s shipyard where he was beaten by his co-workers.  According to the article, ‘William and George Gardiner’s shipyard [was] on the north-east corner of Lancaster and Wolfe Streets’. It’s not at the water’s edge now; the waterline at Fell’s Point has been changed quite a bit in many places over the years as it’s been filled in and built over. Beacham’s, as I described earlier, would have been nearby, around the corner to the north. There’s this little park called Thames St Park, bordered also by Wolfe and Lancaster; perhaps this is the site of one or part of both of those shipyards.

Douglass Place, 500 block of Dallas St, Fell's Point Baltimore MD, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

Douglass Place, 500 block of Dallas St, Fell’s Point Baltimore MD

Douglass Place with engraved marker, Fell's Point Baltimore MD, photo 2016 Amy Cools

Douglass Place with engraved marker, Fell’s Point

Next, I head for a site associated with Douglass many years later in his life. I walk north on S. Durham St, passing Douglass’ first home site with the Aulds again, then left (west) on Aliceanna towards S. Dallas St. I find that the stretch of Dallas between me and the 500 block of Dallas near Fleet St where I’m headed is built over, so I go back up Bond to go around. I find what I’m looking for: a little row of brick houses, where an engraved cream stone in the larger of the red brick buildings confirms this is indeed ‘Douglass Place’. Douglass built these in the early 1890’s as quality, affordable rental housing for black residents.

Historical Plaque at Douglass Place, Fell's Pt Baltimore, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

Historical Plaque at Douglass Place, Fell’s Pt

Billie Holliday house at 219 Durham St, Fell's Point, Baltimore MD, photo 2016 Amy Cools

Billie Holliday house at 219 Durham St, Fell’s Point

On my way out from Fell’s Point proper, I decide to swing by a site only very tangentially linked to Douglass. The lady who confirmed the location of the Aliceanna St house directed me to a home where Billie Holiday grew up at 219 Durham St. I love Billie Holiday, as I’m sure you do too, so I’m thrilled to make this discovery. Holiday, as you remember, sang ‘Strange Fruit’, a stark and haunting song about lynching that was very controversial when she recorded it in the late 1930’s but well loved, and her performance of this song is among the very best. Douglass became an activist in his later years against lynching…. more on that in a future post.

The Wharf formerly known as Smith's, Inner Harbor, Baltimore MD, 2016 by Amy Cools

The Wharf, formerly known as Smith’s Wharf, at the end of Gay St, Inner Harbor, Baltimore MD

Then I head towards the Inner Harbor, west towards downtown, to the wharf which used to be called Smith’s Wharf. It’s described in an old document as located at the south end of Gay St. ‘run[ning] north and south, from the east side of Gay St dock…’, now at Pratt, assuming that where the water meets the shore has not changed dramatically, though it’s not really a safe assumption. It’s just that I mostly have the current shoreline to follow, with atlases from young Douglass’ time so scarce.

Wharf at Gay and Pratt, formerly Smith's, Inner Harbor, Baltimore MD, photo 2016 Amy Cools

Wharf at Gay and Pratt, formerly Smith’s, Inner Harbor, Baltimore MD

This is where Douglass first arrived in Baltimore, diverted from his likely destiny as a plantation slave to a better one working in the city, though this was no guarantee of better treatment. Though city slaves often enjoyed a better standard of living in the city, Douglass tells of slaves in neighboring homes in Fell’s Point who were treated very cruelly. But on that day in the mid-1820’s, as Douglass watched the city shore draw near, he was thrilled at the prospect of a new and easier life than that of his deprived, if somewhat carefree, childhood as a plantation orphan.

Maryland Historical Society, Celebrating the 15th Amendment, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

Maryland Historical Society Museum, Celebrating the 15th Amendment Plaque in the Civil War Exhibit

Then to my last stop, the Maryland Historical Society downtown, to see what they have on Douglass. I don’t find much, as the library is closed, though the museum is open. I am excited, however, to find a plaque with a photo of an event I want to discover a location for but haven’t yet. In 1870, Douglass gave a speech before a crowd of about 10,000 people in Baltimore in celebration of the passage of the 15th Amendment, and as it turns out, the celebratory parade ends at, and the celebrations culminate, at the War of 1812 memorial tower called the Battle Monument at E. Fayette and N. Calvert; you can see its column to the right. As luck would have it, an unsuccessful search for another site (I’ll tell you about it in the next post) happens to take me to thus very same place; when going through and studying my photos afterward, I’m excited to make this discovery! Here’s the site today; as you can see, it looks very different, except for the Monument itself.

Battle Monument at E. Fayette and N. Calvert, Baltimore MD, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

Battle Monument at E. Fayette and N. Calvert, Baltimore MD

So ends my first day of following the life of Frederick Douglass on the East Coast, and it’s been a thrilling one. Coming up next: a day on the East Shore of Maryland, his birthplace and towns where he spent much of his early life. Stay tuned!

*Listen to the podcast version here or on iTunes

~ Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and is ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sources and Inspiration:

Battle Monument‘. In Wikipedia, The Free Enclyclopedia. Encyclopedia.

Douglass, Frederick. The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. Re-published 1993, Avenal, New York: Gramercy Books, Library of Freedom series.

Douglass, Frederick. My Bondage and My Freedom: 1855 Edition with a new introduction. Re-published 1969, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Douglass Terrace – Dallas Street North of Fleet Street’. BaltimoreMD. com

Eastern District‘. Baltimore City Police History.com

Foner, Philip S. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Vol. 1-4. New York: International Publishers, 1950.

Historical Sign Marking Where Frederick Douglass Lived as a Slave in Fells Point at Durham & Aliceanna‘. (photo) What I Saw Riding My Bike Around Today blog

Kelly, Jacques. ‘2 Neighborhoods Show City’s Gems of Black History‘. Feb 19, 1993, The Baltimore Sun website

Lakin, James. The Baltimore Directory and Register, for 1814-15. Baltimore: J.C. O’Reilly.

McFeely, William. Frederick Douglass. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1991.

Papenfuse, Edward. ‘Recreating Lost Neighborhoods: The House on Ann Street, Fells Point, Baltimore City, Maryland‘. Reflections by a Maryland Archivist blog

Separate is Not Equal: Brown vs. Board of Education‘. The National Museum of American History website, by the Smithsonian

Shopes, Linda. ‘Fells Point: A Close-up Look At Baltimore’s Oldest Working-class Community’. Nov 24, 1991. The Baltimore Sun website

Troy, Davis. ‘The Story of the 15th Amendment in Maryland‘. Maryland.gov