Monday, July 17, 2006

Ruggles Sends Best Wishes to Douglass Upon the Launch of the North Star

David Ruggles, as one of the first black journalists in the country, had written post after post for such papers as the Emancipator, The Colored American, and the Liberator. Now having found refuge in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he was treating himself and others using the water cure method, he still found time to write to his friend, Frederick Douglass upon the launch of the North Star in Rochester, NY. Ruggles was particularly supportive of the spirit of the paper which Douglass laid out in the first issue December 3, 1847:

It is scarcely necessary for us to say that our desire to occupy our present position at the head of an Antislavery Journal, has resulted from no unworthy distrust or ungrateful want of appreciation of the zeal, integrity, or ability of the noble band of white laborers, in this department of our cause; but, from a sincere and settled conviction that such a Journal, if conducted with only moderate skill and ability, would do a most important and indispensable work, which it would be wholly impossible for our white friends to do for us.

It is neither a reflection on the fidelity, nor a disparagement of the ability of our friends and fellow-laborers, to assert what "common sense affirms and only folly denies," that the man who has suffered the wrong is the man to demand redress,—that the man STRUCK is the man to CRY OUT—and that he who has endured the cruel pangs of Slavery is the man to advocate Liberty. It is evident we must be our own representatives and advocates, not exclusively, but peculiarly—not distinct from, but in connection with our white friends. In the grand struggle for liberty and equality now waging, it is meet, right and essential that there should arise in our ranks authors and editors, as well as orators, for it is in these capacities that the most permanent good can be rendered to our cause.

On January 28, Douglass published this testimonial by his former assistant on the Underground Railroad. On this occasion Ruggles was no less eloquent than Douglass was speaking on his own behalf

Northampton, Jan. 1, 1848


The specimen number of the North Star, is just what it should be—a beacon of liberty, to illuminate the pathway of the bleeding, hunted fugitive of the South; and to arouse our disfranchised fellow countrymen and women of the North, who are lulled to sleep by the siren son of Liberty, while we are slaves, to all intents, purposes, and constructions, in any State within this SLAVEHOLDING UNION. Let it be seen and felt, that while our brethren and sisters of the South are slaves to individuals, we, of the North, are slaves to the mass. Let the whole truth in regard to our real condition be so clearly shown, that our colored brethren, who believe themselves free, may understand, that in the United States of America, there are no “free colored men;” and that there never can be, so long as there is no concert of action; and our neutrality continues to clog the wheels of the car—EMANCIPATION. On this subject, may the light of the North Star be like that of the inflexible Sirius, that never waxes nor wanes, until our brethren, who are sleeping in calm security, shall awake to the dangers which surround them, and take such observations from the beacon-light as shall point them to the haven where they should be, in the full enjoyment of freedom, not slavery; rights, not privileges…

When I reflect upon the tremendous influence of the press in freedom’s cause, since WM. LLOYD GARRISON sounded the first note for immediate emancipation, and consider the important position you occupy, and that the destiny of enslaved millions depends upon the existence of a free and independent press, and that every man and woman, whose complexion bears the presumptive evidence of slavery, is under a moral obligation to sustain such an engine in our cause—my word to all is, Let him who would be a slave, refuse to sustain it!

Every yours in Human Freedom, DAVID RUGGLES


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