The Works of Frederick Douglass

Although many Americans have heard of Frederic Douglass, but they have not studied his works.  He was self-taught; at age 12 he purchased a book named The Columbian Orator which had revolutionary speeches and articles on Natural Rights.   He learned much around the docks of Baltimore.  He was passionate about escaping slavery.  With the help of a young lady, who would become his wife, he pretended to be a sailor, boarded a train and went north.  Ultimately, the pair settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts where Douglass intensified his education.  He became an avid abolitionist, giving speeches throughout the north.  

July 5th, 1852, Frederic Douglass gave a 4th of July speech to the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Sewing Group.  When one looks up the excerpts, the progressive media tends to highlight the second theme of the speech, which basically says, “Why have you not completed the job?” 


What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham… There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.


Douglass elaborated on this for quite some time, and he was correct.  But when one reads his speech in order, it is quite a different story, for Douglass believes in the Founding and the placement of the foundation for equality and freedom.  


It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. ….  Citizens, your fathers Made good that resolution. The freedom gained is yours; and you, therefore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history….  Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the RINGBOLT to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost. 

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too-great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. …  They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory …  They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was “settled” that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were “final;” not slavery and oppression

Douglass then proceeded into the second theme, the plight of the slave and the immorality. 


Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? … How should I look today, … to show that men have a natural right to freedom? ….  There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.


Douglas was an amazing orator.  He painted a picture using logic and delivered it in a clear and concise method.


Fellow-citizens! there is no matter in respect to which, the people of the North have allowed themselves to be so ruinously imposed upon, as that of the pro-slavery character of the Constitution. In that instrument I hold there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing; but interpreted, as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? or is it in the temple? it is neither. While I do not intend to argue this question on the present occasion, let me ask, if it be not somewhat singular that, if the Constitution were intended to be, by its framers and adopters, a slave-holding instrument, why neither slavery, slaveholding, nor slave can anywhere be found in it.


As Douglass was expanding his notoriety, so was Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln was not an abolitionist, but he understood that slavery was morally wrong.  His solution was to have former slaves colonize Libera in Africa.  Why?  He and many others believed that the black man was mentally inferior to the white man.   Unfortunately, many Democrats still have that belief.

Lincoln and Douglass grew to know each other through their speeches, during which time, Lincolns’ view of the mental capabilities of the black population changed.  He realized, as Douglass did, that education was needed to level the playing field of opportunity.  The two finally met after Lincoln became President, with Douglass demanding that black soldiers be allowed to fight.  They became friends, they respected each other, and they listened to each other.   Douglass believed Lincoln was slow in dealing with slavery, Lincoln believed Douglass was a lightning rod.  Following the 2nd Inauguration, Douglass managed to get passed the White House staff to talk with Lincoln.  It is reported that Lincoln said

 “I am glad to see you. I saw you in the crowd to-day, listening to my inaugural address…Douglass; there is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours. I want to know what you think of it.”  

A former slave was equal in stature to the President.  Two months later, Lincoln was assassinated.

I believe that Frederic Douglas would be pleased with the progress made by many in todays’ America.  However, I do not believe he would tolerate blaming others, for he exemplified the belief that hard work can lift all men

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