Letter from Frederick Douglass to C.H. Chase (1849)

Image: Frederick Douglass, photographed by George K. Warren, 1876. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Emma N. and Sidney Kaplan. NPG.80.282.

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My dear Sir:

I owe you an apology for not sooner publishing and replying to the above letter. On a close examination of the Constitution, I am satisfied that if strictly “construed according to its reading,” it is not a pro-slavery instrument; and while I disagree with you as to the inference to be drawn from this admission, you will see that in the resolution, between us there is no question for debate.

I now hold, as I have ever done, that the original intent and meaning of the Constitution (the one given to it by the men who framed it, those who adopted, and the one given to it by the Supreme Court of the United States) makes it a pro-slavery instrument — such an one as I cannot bring myself to vote under, or swear to support.

Very Respectfully,

Frederick Douglass

The North Star, February 9, 1849


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