Congress appropriated $168,700 to replace the lost books in 1852 but not to acquire new materials. This marked the start of a conservative period in the library's administration by librarian John Silva Meehan and joint committee chairman James A. Pearce, who restricted the library's activities. Meehan and Pearce's views about a restricted scope for the Library of Congress reflected those shared by members of Congress. While Meehan was librarian he supported and perpetuated the notion that "the congressional library should play a limited role on the national scene and that its collections, by and large, should emphasize American materials of obvious use to the U.S. Congress".
On July 5, 1852, Douglass delivered an address to the ladies of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Sewing Society. This speech eventually became known as "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?"; one biographer called it "perhaps the greatest antislavery oration ever given".
Stateside, Blackwell was faced with adversity, but did manage to get some media support from entities such as the New-York Tribune. She had very few patients, a situation she attributed to the stigma of women doctors as abortionists. In 1852, Blackwell began delivering lectures and published The Laws of Life with Special Reference to the Physical Education of Girls, her first work, a volume about the physical and mental development of girls that concerned itself with the preparation of young women for motherhood.