Lot 148 of 395:
1838 Where Frederick Douglass Fell in Love?  

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1838 Where Frederick Douglass Fell in Love? - document from the School for Moral Discipline

Wells, E.M.P.



September 1, 1838


Printed and handwritten Document Signed, School for Moral Discipline, Boston, September 1, 1838, 1 pg. + address leaf, being Cyrus King’s student expense bill (and blank report card), sent to his father, William King, former Governor of Maine, with an appended note; and Wells, Autograph Letter Signed. M.D.School, [Boston], Sept. 18, 1838. 4pp. with address leaf.

To his “dear friend”, Governor King, explaining why he had demoted his 19 year-old Cyrus one grade and could not reinstate him, lest he be accused of “acting with partiality”. As for the future, “from the best judgment I can form of your son's character and disposition I think if he were to marry at the age of 20, one whom he could love, respect and enjoy” with “connexions in the best society… it would satisfy all his desires and he would become a settled member of society…” The same month Wells wrote these letters, Frederick Douglass was a slave in Baltimore, where he had met and fallen in love with Anna Murray, a free black woman. On September 3, 1838, she helped him escape from his owner to freedom in New York. They were married on September 15 and settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Harvard scholar William McFeely, researching a Douglass biography in the papers of abolitionist Maria Weston Chapman, principal of a socially-progressive Boston girls’ high school during the 1830s, found clues that Douglass, while still enslaved in Baltimore, had visited the “E.M.P.School” of “Elizabeth” Wells, and had there met his future wife. But, as these papers make clear, the “E.M.P.School” was in Boston, its founding father, the Rev. Eleazer Mather Porter Wells being a saintly clergyman renowned for enlightened work with troubled boys and “juvenile offenders” as well as being active in the anti-slavery movement. Did Wells play some still-unknown role in Douglass’ life? As a confusing footnote, a recently-published “erotic diary” of an American Sea Captain records allegations by sailors who had attended the School that Rev. Wells “regularly solicited” them for sex, one admitting “to being a regular partner for the cleric.” Future Douglass biographers might find this puzzle worthy of investigation.

Lot Amendments

Some yellowing and light edge wear; very good.

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