I Have Seen Dark Hours in My Life, and I Have Seen the Darkness Gradually Disappearing and the Light Gradually Increasing

Frederick Douglass? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous anti-slavery orator Frederick Douglass once stated that society was slowly improving. He believed that he was seeing “the darkness gradually disappearing and the light gradually increasing”. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: On October 22, 1890 “The Evening Star” newspaper of Washington D. C. reported on a speech delivered by Frederick Douglass at the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church on the previous night. His concluding words looked to the future with an element of optimism engendered by a religious outlook. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

I have seen dark hours in my life, and I have seen the darkness gradually disappearing and the light gradually increasing. One by one I have seen obstacles removed, errors corrected, prejudices softened, proscriptions relinquished, and my people advancing in all the elements that go to make up the sum of general welfare. And I remember that God reigns in eternity, and that whatever delays, whatever disappointments and discouragements may come, truth, justice, liberty and humanity will ultimately prevail.

Below are additional selected citations and comments.

Continue reading I Have Seen Dark Hours in My Life, and I Have Seen the Darkness Gradually Disappearing and the Light Gradually Increasing


  1. 1890 October 22, The Evening Star, White Man and Negro: A Characteristic Speech by Hon. Fred Douglass, Quote Page 9, Column 3, Washington, D. C. (Newspapers_com)

Ballot Box, Jury Box, Cartridge Box

Frederick Douglass? Stephen Decatur Miller? Woody Jenkins? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A prominent public speaker once asserted that the preservation of liberty depended on three boxes:

The ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.

This statement employed metonymy: the “ballot box” referred to input from the populace via the electoral process; the “jury box” referred to oversight via the judicial process; and the cartridge box referred to control via firearms.

This saying has been attributed to the famous anti-slavery orator Frederick Douglass. Also, the Governor of South Carolina Stephen Decatur Miller has received credit. Would you please explore the expression’s provenance?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in the “Niles’ Weekly Register” on October 9, 1830. Stephen Decatur Miller had recently delivered a speech in the Sumter district of South Carolina which included the following. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

There are three and only three ways, to reform our congressional legislation. The representative, judicial and belligerent principle alone can be relied on; or as they are more familiarly called, the ballot box, the jury box and the cartouch box. The two first are constitutional, the last revolutionary.

The word “cartouch” is an alternative spelling of “cartouche” which is a cartridge for firearms. Many other commentators have used variants of this expression over the years. Frederick Douglass employed an instance by 1863, and details are given below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Ballot Box, Jury Box, Cartridge Box


  1. 1830 October 9, Niles’ Weekly Register, Edited by H. Niles, Volume 39, Number 7, Governor Miller of South Carolina (Extracts from speech by Miller at a late celebration in Sumter district, South Carolina), Start Page 117, Quote Page 118, Published by H. Niles & Son, Baltimore, Maryland. (Google Books Full View) link