Douglass Delivers Address in Ireland

Mr. Douglas(s) (for that is his name) proceeded to address them.

He said slavery was a question in which every human being ought to feel a deep interest. It aimed at, and accomplished, the destruction of all the rights of men. It was an enemy of the entire human family. The principle that enslaved the black would enthrall the white, and the spirit of tyranny that for the last 300 years made the children of Africa its victims, would devote every one whom he now addressed to its cruel altar. It was a strange contradiction that in human character, that in a country that boasts to be the freest in the world, slavery exists in its worst and most aggravated forms—a country that threw off the yoke of colonial bondage for a three-penny tax on tea, proceeding upon the principle that all men were equal, and yet was the propagator of the heinous crime of slavery. It was to slavery, as it existed in the United States, he alluded, and he thought he might be permitted to speak of it, having himself endured its woes, and felt the bloody lash.

Douglass' personal and political transformation is evident in the shifting form of his literary work, itself enmeshed in those same strategies and ideologies. In Ireland his autobiography was republished by the Dublin Quaker printer Richard Webb shortly after Douglass' arrival in September 1845, and it went into variant and second Irish editions in 1846. Just as Douglass' personal and professional standing were deeply affected by the experience of being outside the US, the reprinting of the Narrative in Ireland marks the beginning of a stage in Douglass' literary career that has profound implications for contemporary readings of his life and work.