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Full text of "Obituary of Adolph Douai"

Dr. Adolph Douai: 

T he G ifted and Tireless Agitator D ead: 

A Proletarian W ho L ived for the G ood of thers — 
H is Autobiography — Teacher, Revolutionist, and Scientist — 

A Useful Life 

Published in Workm&Ys Advocate [N ew H aven, CT ], vol. 4, no. 4 (January 28, 1888), pg. 1. 



Last Saturday morning [January 21, 1888] the 
self-sacrificing teacher and agitator, D r. Adolph D ouai, 
consciously and calmly departed this life, at theage of 
68 years and 11 months. H e had been suffering from 
a throat trouble, but no fears were entertained by his 
family, and he refrained from telling them of his con- 
dition when he became convinced of the serious char- 
acter of the ailment. 

The funeral took place last Tuesday, from the 
Brooklyn Labor Lyceum, where thousands gathered 
to pay the last respects to the deceased. T he Sections 
of the Socialist Labor Party of New York, Brooklyn, 
Williamsburg, Greenpoint, as well as a number of so- 
cialistic societies and trade unions, among them the 
Bricklayers' International Union No. 11 and the So- 
cialist Turn Verein, and the delegates to the German 
Trades; besides these there were representatives from 
Socialist Sections in Philadelphia and N ew J ersey, and 
from a number of tradeunionsin New York and neigh- 
bo ring cities. 

The Progressive M usical Union rendered exquis- 
ite music suitable to the occasion, and the scholars of 
theLabor Lyceum school sang a mourning hymn. Alex- 
anderjonas, editor of the Volksatung, made the first 
address, in which he reviewed the life of the deceased 
and feelingly acknowledged hisexcellent traits. After a 
song — "Dort unten i$ Friedef' — by the Lassalle 
Mannerchor, Dr. Felix Ad ler rendered a glowing trib- 
ute to the memory of Dr. Douai, in which he espe- 
cially noted his high character and faithfulness to his 
convictions. Teacher William Scholl, of the Douai In- 
stitute, spoke on behalf of the teachers and scholars of 



the school, and closed by laying a palm branch upon 
the casket. 

H erman Walther spoke in the name of the N a- 
tional Executive Committee of the Socialist Labor 
Party. He said: 

Adolph Douai has been described as a teacher and 
philosopher, and what have we, Social Democrats, to say? 
We known how to appreciate his many excellencies, but 
that which lifts him higher in our sight is his unbending 
characteristic of honor. To Social Democrats he shall be as 
a bright example. As to his ideals, I do not believe that the 
many were against him, but rather that the masses of the 
people, of the thinking proletariat, were on his side. He was 
a fighter for freedom. A son of the people, he passed through 
the hard school of life, and thus comprehended the suffering 
of the people. He was ever in advance of his time, ever 
progressive. He was a pioneer of the enlightened 
proletarians, and as such is honored by the working people 
of all countries, and will ever live in their memory. In him 
has the great prophecy of Lassalle been fulfilled: "Science 
and Labor have embraced. 

W ith these wordsthespeaker deposited a wreath 
of white flowers and evergreen upon the bier. 

Comrade G. Metzler, of Philadelphia, also laid 
awreath upon thecoffin in the name of the Socialists 
of Philadelphia, and Jacob W illig offered a wreath of 
laurel entwined with a crimson sash, in the name of 
the United German Trades, with the inscription: "To 
the brave battler for Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity." 

M any other tributes were offered in flowers, 
poetry, and song, after which the funeral procession 
wasformed and the mortal remains of one whose deeds 
shall live after him were carried to their resting place 
in Evergreen cemetery. 



Obituary of Dr. AdolphDouai [January 28, 1888] 



Dr. Douai's Autobiography. 

Followingisa translation of Dr. Douai's autobiog- 
raphy, slightly condensed: 

Charles Daniel Adolph Douai was born at 
Altenburg, in the D uchy of Saxon-Altenburg, on the 
22nd of February, 1819. H e was the son of a school 
teacher, and a descendant of a French refugee family 
who had fled to Dresden and forgotten their French. 
H isfather wasthefirst teacher of the"Semi-school" in 
Friedrichstadt- Dresden, until the pedagogic reformer, 
D inter, was called thither, and who in his autobiogra- 
phy appreciatively referred to the elder Douai. H ere 
hisson received hiseducation and training asa teacher 
of the people, so that teachership was inherited to the 
fourth generation in this family. 

Adolph Douai received a good academic and 
university education, according to the conception of 
those days, for the Altenburg Gymnasium and the 
University of Leipzig which he attended were cel- 
ebrated. But although he had graduated from both 
with honor, poverty was so closely interwoven with 
his fate that he begged of his father to permit him to 
learn thetradeof compositor, which idea was opposed 
and vanquished by his stern parent. 

From hiseighthyearhehad to partially support 
himself, and from his thirteenth year he was entirely 
dependent upon his own exertions for a livelihood, so 
slight was his father's salary and perquisites. He 
wrought out a livelihood asa newspaper carrier, as as- 
sistant to his father in the teaching of a number of 
peasant children, as copyist, as chorister, as assistant 
in the preparation of a schoolbook by his father, as 
crocheter of woolen shawlswhich father and son manu- 
factured in leisure hours, as composer of special po- 
ems, as peddler of the schoolbook referred to, as mes- 
senger, as children's caretaker, and as cook, when his 
mother was ill, as actor in child casts, theatrical super- 
numerary and re-writer of actors' librettos, and finally 
also as composer of New Year's and birthday poems 
for several wealthy relatives who paid for the work, 
and in many other ways. All this prevented a thor- 
ough attention to study, nor could he devote sufficient 
interest in the teaching. Every waking moment he was 
away from his studies was necessarily devoted to the 
struggle for existence, and he was permitted to enter 



examination for graduation from the academy a year 
earlier than was the rule, for it was considered that he 
would fatally overwork himself if he had to pass an- 
other year in the struggle for an education and at the 
sametimefor a living. At theageof 19 hewasa physi- 
cally undeveloped, half-nourished boy, and measured 
4 feet, 8 inches in height, as shown by his passport. 
Admitted to the freedom of the U niversity, where he 
received a few stipends, he exercised in the gymna- 
sium, fenced, swam, and roamed thefields, as circum- 
stances permitted, he grew and improved so rapidly 
that his father hardly recognized him after a few 
months' absence from home. 



At the U niversity, poverty asserted its power, and 
the stipends were not sufficient to support the poor 
student. H e was compelled to add to his income by 
writing, and he wrote some novels and two theologi- 
cal papers. Notwithstanding this he had to live in a 
room without fire in the winter and liveon poor fare. 
This did not hinder him from joining, for a half-year, 
with thestudentsin their rollicking life, and incurring 
beer debts, etc., fro the sake of actual and new experi- 
ence. For the same reason he traveled on foot all over 
Germany, as was customary with the journeymen 
workmen, having very little money in his pocket. 

After hegraduated from the U niversity, hesought 
admission as student in philosophy and pedagogy at 
the University of Jena, in vain. It would require two 
years of support by private means to enter upon the 
usual course of a G erman scientist. T here was but one 
course for hi m, and that was the acceptance of a good 
paying situation as private tutor in Russia. This could 
furnish him the means to continue his studies and at 
the same time marry, for hewas betrothed to Baroness 
von Beust, and receive theconsent of her relativesonly 
on condition that he could, within two years, succeed 
in securing a respectable and paying position. 

This was accomplished, but to related all the 
adventures and contests necessary to gain all this would 
take too long. Douai successfully passed imperial ex- 
aminationsat theU niversity of Dorpat, which entitled 
him to admission in Russian government employ and 
to the title of D octor and the rank of Professor, where- 
upon he claimed hisbride. H esoon became conscious 



Obituary of Dr. AdolphDouai [January 28, 1888] 



that the acceptance of an office under the Russian gov- 
ernment would involve the sacrifice of his ideals and 
convictions, and so he accepted a position as private 
tutor at a high salary, which left him with enough time 
and means to continue his studies. H ere his convic- 
tions and principles ripened; here he struggled against 
the uneducated public opinion, through to Social 
Democracy, in which hisown experience, having com- 
prehended the system of exploitation and seen the 
consequent human misery, considerably influenced 
him. Among other experiences, he lived through a 
three-years' famine, a peasant revolution, the first per- 
secution of Nihilists, and the forcible or bribed con- 
versions of protestant peasants to the Greek church 
— all these occurred under hisown eyes. 

H is personal circumstances were now highly 
pleasing. H e never expected a more congenial life, or 
more appreciation. But, the certainty that Russia would 
not prove a field for one of his opinions, and an un- 
certain premonition of a coming revolutionary move- 
mentinWestern Europe, drove him backtoGermany 
after a five years' residence in theTsar's domain. 



Douai had become thoroughly convinced that 
the art and science of education had a great future — 
the task of ennobling humanity— and that this was 
possible and imperious. Possible, because humanity 
had lifted itself above the lower order of animal life; 
but imperious, because the ever- repeated destruction 
of civilization could only be prevented by a Social 
Democratic revolution in all social arrangements, com- 
bined with a reform in the means of education which 
should partly precede this revolution, and partly fol- 
low it as a support. 



In his paternal city, Altenburg, Douai endeav- 
ored to enhance the valueof his new primary and pre- 
paratory school by never refusing admittance to ever 
so spoiled a scholar, as he hoped by improving such to 
gain a reputation. And this succeeded. Although he 
bought and fitted up a building, and engaged the best 
assistants with borrowed money, he had paid all debts 
within a year and a half, and his institution prospered, 



so that scholars camefrom considerabledistances, while 
the children of proletarians were ever welcomed. 

Then came the Revolution of 1848, and as he 
had helped prepareforitbytheorganization of young 
citizens' clubs, journeymen's and laborers' societies, he 
took an active part in the political development. Little 
Altenburg declared for the Republic and Social De- 
mocracy as early as Frederick H ecker (the name Social 
Democracy was spoken even then though but partially 
comprehended). After it had been vainly attempted to 
swerve him by bribes and promises of high office, he 
was threatened with arrest as early asjuly, as were two 
of his comrades. But the citizens erected barricades, 
and repelled a brigade of Saxon troops which the gov- 
ernment had secretly quartered there, and with such 
energy that they were withdrawn. 

A Reform Council (Landtag) wascalled, in which 
Douai and his comrades were in the majority, and the 
reformation thereof followed within afew months. But 
he was one of the few who were not deceived by the 
present non-success of the Revolution, for Altenburg 
was one of the most progressive portions of G ermany, 
as was the neighboring kingdom of Saxony, where his 
propaganda also entered; but many a broad tract of 
Germany was sill in darkness. It was his notion to 
spread, among themillion of peoplewho came within 
range of his agitato rial influence, as much light as pos- 
sibleupon political, religious, social, and scientific sub- 
jects, and at the same time to warn against all unnec- 
essary bloodshed. Thefruits of such activity could not 
be lost, and were not. 

It was the part of the government to nullify his 
influence, but that was in vain for at least four years. 
On the pretense that Altenburg was a "strategical 
point," a brigade of Saxon troops was quartered there. 
T hese were quickly republicanized. They were sent to 
Schleswig-Holstein, and with them the two republi- 
canized local battalions. In their place came a brigade 
of H anoverians. These were also soon republicanized. 
Then came a brigade of Prussians, among them two 
regiments of Polanders. 

Before this Douai had actually been arrested, and 
only by quick presence of mind and firmness did he 
prevent bloodshed, forthe citizens had already set him 
at liberty, throwing himself between the people and 
the bayonets of the soldiery, after which he presented 
himself a free man before court for trial. 



Obituary of Dr. AdolphDouai [January 28, 1888] 



In the trial on charges of high treason and riot- 
ing, he prevailed, but the jury seemed to think they 
must placate the government, and so he was sent to 
prison for oneyear on three counts. T hrough this and 
during this time his school was broken up, and influ- 
ences were brought to bear upon him, evidently 
planned by thegovernment, to emigrate. But hefound 
anew means to earn a living, and only after these had 
been destroyed by thegovernment did he determine 
to leave Germany. The sale of his property was forced, 
and his means were thus retrenched; but the gratitude 
of his fellow citizens was made manifest in the liberal 
furnishing of the needful means for his journey and 
establishing himself in anew country— Texas. There, 
at the new German colony of New Braunfels, he es- 
tablished a school. The population was mostly com- 
posed of Catholics, and as soon asthepupilshad mas- 
tered the elementary branches, which hardly occupied 
three months, they were withdrawn from his school 
by influence of the priest. 

T hen hewas attacked by that dread disease, chol- 
era, after which he contracted afever; and so hisschool 
again was broken up. H e endeavored to earn a living 
for himself and family by giving private lessons in 
music, arranging concerts, tuning pianos, and taking 
the leadership in a male singing society, in vain. Asa 
last resort he turned his attention to newspaper work 
in San Antonio. H is program was Social Democratic, 
and it took well. When, however, the San Antonio 
Za'tungcameout in both German and English espous- 
ing the cause of theAbolitionists, denouncing slavery, 
he was subject to multifarious persecutions, which 
ended in the destruction of his paper, and a total loss 
of his little property. Nor could he emigrate but for 
the help of friends, for all Abolitionists were driven 
out. But the Negroes did not forget him. In 1860 he 
received a newspaper which said in the salutatory: 

This paper, which is owned, edited, and whose types 
are set by Negroes, is printed upon the same press with 
which Dr. Adolph Douai first battled for the emancipation of 
the black men. He has the gratitude of the colored race who 
will ever remember his endeavors in behalf of freedom. 

Douai took part in the Fremont campaign, and 
at the sametimestrived for the establishment of West- 
ern Texas as a free state. But the war coming on, the 
plan failed after the Kansas Emigrant Aid Society had 
voted to spend a million dollars in the effort. 



Hethen went to Boston, where he began life by 
giving private lessons. Besides, he became interested 
in thel nstitutefor theBlind, supported by thesixNew 
England states, in South Boston, where he labored for 
several years imparting knowledge to the unfortunates. 
A German workingmen's club which he organized 
helped i n the establ ish ment of a th ree-class school with 
which a Kindergarten was connected — the first in 
America. On the occasion of a memorial meeting in 
honor of H umboldt, Douai delivered aspeech in which 
he said that one of the services to humanity of 
H umboldt was that hewas not a believer in God. For 
this he was so bitterly attacked by Professor Louis 
Agassizand his brother-in-law, Professor F el ton, in the 
Boston press, that his means of support were with- 
drawn and he had to leave his beloved Boston. 

In 1860 he became editor of the New York 
Demokrat, but soon accepted the position of Principal 
of the H oboken Academy, which prospered exceed- 
ingly under his management. H ereheworked 6 years, 
when heobserved that his political, religious, and so- 
cialistic opinions (which, however, were not paraded 
in the academy) had made him powerful enemies. H e 
removed to N ew York in 1866, and established a school 
of hisown, which soon prospered. T heTweed-Sweeney 
swindle in the widening of upper Broadway cost him 
his property by thenullification of a long lease through 
special lawmaking. His school still exists under the 
direction of his sister, but he had to find a new field 
for existence with his family of 10 children (1871). 
H e was elected principal of the G reen Street School, 
Newark, N J, and remained thereuntil 1876.Thenum- 
ber of scholars rose from 198 to 450. H e stipulated 
that his plan of teaching should not be interfered with 
and held himself ready to resign when this stipulation 
was broken; and thisoccurred in the election of a Board 
of D irectors who were politically opposed to him. He 
then accepted an invitation to establish an academy at 
I rvi ngton, N J , for which purpose stock was subscribed. 
But the loss of the only building in the place suitable 
for the undertaking prevented the project from being 
carried out. 

H e had already begun writing for the Volksa- 
tung, established in January 1878, and he now closed 
hiscareer as a teacher, and devoted himself to editorial 
work on the Volkszeitung, though he still occasionally 
taught at his sister's school. Asa teacher he published 



Obituary of Dr. AdolphDouai [January 28, 1888] 



10 textbooks, 6 English and 4 German, and in all of 
them gave the benefit of his half-century of teacher's 
experience, besides contributing to the best English 
and German pedagogic newspapers and magazines. As 
all this was more for the school of the future, it may 
easily beimagined that hispedagogic writings cost him 
more than it brought in. These works may still be ap- 
preciated; they have been the result of long experience 
in the school room. 

Teaching was a passion with him, and he only 
turned his attention to writing when there was no al- 
ternative. Six times he lost all his property at school- 
keeping, without fault of his own, because he would 
not hide his convictions nor sacrifice his pedagogic 
principles. H e is known more as a writer than as a 
teacher, and yet he taught over 5,000 children, and 
among them some have become celebrated and excel- 
lent people. H e has been charged with unsteadiness 
owing to hismany changes— theforegoing will teach 
whether these charges are well founded. One may dis- 
cover in the perusal of this story that for a born prole- 
tarian who will not deny his principles, it is mad al- 
most impossible to accomplish material successin "this 
best of all worlds," even if he were, if possible, more 
industrious, economical, persevering, and free from 
gross vices than D ouai; at least not as a teacher. 

His journalistic and literary productions would 
fill many volumes. M any of them remain unpublished. 

[End] 

The New York Volkszeitung has lost heavily in 
Dr. Douai'sdeath, as he was continually engaged with 
the editor-in-chief in the editorial department. The 
Socialistic Labor party branches of New York, which 
met on Sunday [January 22, 1888], all passed resolu- 
tions of respect to his memory, and the same regret 
was expressed in the principal unions. 



Edited by Tim D avenport 

Published by 1000 Flowers Publishing, Corvallis, OR, 2010. * Non-commercial reproduction permitted. 



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