Jun 27, 2024 - Sale 2675

Sale 2675 - Lot 270

Price Realized: $ 87,500
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 6,000 - $ 9,000
(SLAVERY & ABOLITION.) Frederick Douglass. Oration Delivered in Corinthian Hall, Rochester. 39 pages. 8vo, original printed wrappers, dampstaining and moderate wear; dampstaining and minor wear to contents; early owner's gift inscription dated 1858 on title page. Rochester, NY: Lee, Mann & Co., 1852

Additional Details

"What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?"

First separate printing, after its appearance in Frederick Douglass' Paper. In 1852, Frederick Douglass was invited to give the traditional Independence Day speech in his hometown of Rochester, New York. He delivered one of the most scalding pieces of oratory in the American canon.

"Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? . . . This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn" (pages 14-15).

The most famous passage appears on page 20: "What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour."

Printed on the verso of the title page is a note from the president of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Sewing Society to Douglass, offering "their most sincere thanks for the eloquent address delivered in Corinthian Hall, on the 5th of July. Anticipating its most speedy publication in Pamphlet form, they request that you will furnish them with one hundred copies for distribution." Whether the entire print run was limited to 100 is unclear; the pamphlet's scarcity today suggests that it might have been.

"Perhaps the greatest oration of Douglass's life"--Blockson One Hundred and One, 30. Afro-Americana Supplement 611; Sabin 20716. None traced at auction since a Swann sale, 27 February 2003, lot 182.