The Mayor announced that he was proud to preside at such a soiree which did “honour to a man that came amongst them from America and who was once a slave, but is now a free man.” He offered a toast to the health of the Queen and a toast to the health of their guest “Mr. Frederick Douglass.” Douglass rose from his seat to loud cheering and addressed the crowd.
Instead the Independent Chapel on Bedford Row was the venue for both of Frederick Douglass’s lectures in Limerick City. The Congregational Minister in charge of the Independent Chapel in 1845 was Rev. John De Kewer Williams. De Kewer Williams, who was the same age as Douglass, hailed from the parish of Hackney in Middlesex and was a graduate of the reputable dissenting academy at Highbury College in London. This college had a long anti-slavery tradition. De Kewer Williams had accepted an invitation from the Irish Evangelical Society to visit Ireland and he began his mission in Limerick in 1844.
and completed in 1882 as Life and Times of Frederick Douglass
In 1845 he published his memoir, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. The book was immensely popular, but due to his now elevated public profile, the risk of Douglass being renditioned had increased. It was felt that the most prudent decision was for Douglass to go on an anti-slavery tour in Ireland and Britain. This would keep him safe for an interim period as well as increasing anti-slavery sentiment in the British Isles.
The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro by Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass gave himself an education against horrible odds, and was able to read and think forever about the evils of slavery and good reasons for its abolishment.
A speech given at Rochester, New York, July 5, 1852 Mr
Frederick Douglass lectured for a second time at the Independent Chapel on the 12th November. No record of this lecture remains but we know that the theme was the role religion played in sustaining slavery in the United States. Douglass claimed that without the support of the churches slavery “would have been long since abolished by the people.”
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There were unique aspects to this speech. He revealed that an Irishman named Gough saved his life on board the Cambria. A group of slaveholders on the ship had threatened to throw Douglass overboard but Gough defended Douglass telling the belligerents that “two might play at that game.” When the audience heard this detail they cheered loudly, and Douglass riding this wave of enthusiasm, then called for “three cheers for Old Ireland!”
1 Frederick Douglass - Bicentennial
At eight o’clock on Monday the 10th November 1845, Frederick Douglass delivered a graphic address about the treatment of slaves in the United States to a rapt Limerick audience in the Independent Chapel. In the chair was Benjamin Fisher and he introduced Douglass to the large crowd which represented “all classes and parties” with the Limerick Reporter noting that “there was a large number of females present.”
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Despite being hosted by a Quaker family, Douglass was not booked to speak at the Quaker Meeting House in Limerick. This may have been a preemptive action by Webb in response to the controversy in Dublin where the Quakers withdrew permission for Douglass to lecture in their hall after he spoke of his previous owner, who was a Methodist. They put the possibility of offending local Methodists ahead of the truth of Frederick Douglass’s life. This was a reminder of how anti-slavery advocacy was not a singular object even within the Quaker community.