In a speech before the Scottish Anti-Slavery Society in Glasgow, Scotland on March 26, 1860, Frederick Douglass outlines his views on the American Constitution. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. The women’s rights movement in the United States had been strongly linked with the abolition movement. At that time the abolitionist movement was sharply divided between those who believed the Constitution itself was a “guilty compromise” on slavery in order to create the Union, and those who believed the document was opposed to injustice for people of all colors and backgrounds. Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, be they white, black, female, Native American, or Chinese immigrants. The United States Constitution specifically permitted slavery. Since slaves are not free, Douglass believes this demonstrates that slavery is not supported by the constitution. Frederick Douglass and the Fourth of July, by James A. Colaiaco, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 256 pages, $24.95. The history of Western democracy and republicanism places a firm emphasis on justice and social progress, which Douglass argued must have subsequently influenced the general ideas of America’s founding documents. Why does the Constitution place so many obstacles in the way of majority rule? The political reform agenda in Washington centered on reforms for newly freed Black people, and a universal suffrage amendment was removed in favor of suffrage for African American men. He wanted to convince the nation that the debts would be handled soon. Regardless of how old we are, we never stop learning. Listening to speeches given by Lincoln, it is clear that he intended all men in America to be free. Stanton remarked in an editorial in 1868: “Think of Patrick and Sambo and Hans and Yung Tung who do not know the difference between a Monarchy and a republic, who never read the Declaration of Independence or Webster’s spelling book, making laws for Lydia Maria Childs, Lucretia Mott, or Fanny Kemble.”3 Editorials like Stanton’s were frequently featured in The Revolution and offered varying justifications to the resistance of some White women to the Fifteenth Amendment. Douglass wanted to make it clear: this was an emergency. Frederick Douglass's friends in the abolitionist movement were all extremely faithful Christians, but, in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass has some really harsh criticisms for slave owners who claim to be Christians. To be an American man meant that you had the right to vote and hold office. . Despite the hope engendered by the passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery following the war, Douglass remained cautious, observing: “Verily, the work does … Almost immediately, he participated in abolitionist activities. . Frederick Douglass believed the United States Constitution was itself an anti-slavery document, a view that differed sharply from that of some abolitionists in the mid-19th century. Frederick Douglass did not always believe the Constitution was an anti-slavery document. Women’s rights activists like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucy Stone were also abolitionists. 23. He soon became a prominent and successful orator and writer. But I differ from those who charge this baseness on the framers of the Constitution of the United States. Douglass came to believe that documents recording the debates of the framers during the composition of the Constitution, as well as a straight reading of both that document and the Declaration of Independence proved the framers did not intend to preserve the institution of slavery. The only mention of bills in Article I is in reference to prohibiting states from issuing "bills of credit." Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) was an escaped slave who joined William Lloyd Garrison as an abolition speaker and journalist. Not only does the Constitution not prohibit Joe D. Scrote from producing his own currency called Scrote Bux (it only comes in denominations of two), it also doesn't grant the U.S. government the right to produce paper money at all. 1. Frederick Douglass March 26, 1860 A Speech Delivered in Glasgow, Scotland …I proceed to the discussion. Social Studies. The reason that the Constitution … https://wjmi.blogspot.com/2014/03/frederick-douglass-on-constitution-and.html It solved nothing. In his views on slavery and the Constitution, how does Douglass differ from his fellow abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison (“On the Constitution and the Union” ) and from Abraham Lincoln (Speech on the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise and First Inaugural Address )? What the Constitution means to Frederick Douglass. Why does Douglass believe that the continued existence of slavery tarnishes the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence? A quick look at the presidency underscored their view. The highest order of genius is as dependent as is the lowest.” Only after acknowledging that human beings are sub-ordinate within the cosmos and co-ordinate with one another does Douglass begin his celebrated tribute to self-made men. Enfranchised citizenship was of the utmost importance to Black people. The debate about suffrage for Black men severed ties between White suffragists and Black activists including Douglass. It was about demonstrating that Black people were human. After the Dred Scott decision, Frederick Douglass said he sought to have Americans live up to the principles of the Constitution. What did he believe prevented Americans from living up to the Constitution? They began a campaign to push for White women’s suffrage over Black male suffrage.2 Major critiques by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her supporters were based in their belief in the inferiority of Black men. [11] He fought for enfranchisement for Black men, but insisted that once that right was acquired, Black men could help in the push for women’s suffrage.1. He further says, the constitution, in its words, is plain and intelligible, and is meant for the home-bred, unsophisticated understandings of … Douglass also says that if the residents of America believe that slaves are "men",: 342 they should be treated as such. Although Douglass originally shared Garrison’s belief that the Constitution's failure to prohibit the forced bondage of African-Americans made it a pro-slavery document, his views began to evolve after touring Europe and establishing his own newspaper, The North Star, in 1848. Each author’s posts reflect their own views and not necessarily those of the African American Intellectual History Society Inc. AAIHS welcomes comments on and vigorous discussion about our posts. Personal insults and mean spirited comments will not be tolerated and AAIHS reserves the right to delete such comments from the blog. © 2020 Leaf Group Ltd. / Leaf Group Media, All Rights Reserved. Her work has appeared in "The Boston Globe," "The Boston Business Journal" and the "International Business Times." Donald Trump, Republican nominee for president, does not believe in the United States Constitution.. That’s a strong statement, but it’s increasingly clear that it’s true. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States presented the first threat to the durability of the American Equal Rights Association. Ashley Portero has been covering state and national politics since 2011. Whether you’re studying times tables or applying to college, Classroom has the answers. Yet even at the height of the violence and disenfranchisement of Black people, Douglass found no fault with the Constitution. The tension between the burden and benefits of citizenship characterized the ongoing battle for civil rights in the United States. The Constitution as Pro-Slavery. (Douglass believes that a person can't both be a Christian and a slave owner.). But the self-evidence of natural rights, as Douglass the orator knew, does not guarantee their protection and practice. He published his new stance in the May 15, 1851 edition of The North Star, stating that his interpretation of the Constitution as an anti-slavery document established a precedent which allowed it to be “wielded on behalf of emancipation.”. Enfranchisement meant that Black men could contribute to American society by voting and holding office, but more importantly receive the economic benefits of American society. Much will be gained at the outset if we fully and clearly understand the real question under discussion. A chart is one thing, the course of the vessel is another. Why does Douglass state that “education and slavery were incompatible with each other”? Here Douglass parallels the indignities slaves suffer in a series of infinitive phrases: “… to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty,” etc. He was also a believer in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, as well as in the liberal values of the U.S. Constitution. Douglass also wants the nation to re-evaluate what the founding fathers wrote into the constitution and I think it is key that he mentioned that nothing about slavery is mentioned in the constitution and therefore to support what it stands for would be to not support slavery. The Constitution would become the lens through which he would advocate for the freedom and natural rights of all people, African Americans and women. Douglass was enslaved in Maryland until escaping to New York City in 1838. Douglass also started a weekly journal, The North Star, where he challenged his readers to question the contradiction between America's Christianity and the institution of slavery. Douglass’s constantly reconsidered his ideas about the Constitution as the realities of Black life, especially in the South, changed. His purpose in the Fourth of … How does Douglass maintain the order and coherence of the first sentence of this paragraph? The United States Constitution is the highest law of the United States of America.It was signed on September 17, 1787 by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.Later, it was put into effect, or ratified, by representatives of the people of the first 13 states. Douglass, however, had long been recognized as a women’s rights man. However, the recent amendments created a new paradigm for Douglass. 1 Frederick Douglass, “The Constitution of the United States: Is it Pro-Slavery or Anti-Slavery?”(Halifax: NS: T. and W. Birtwhistle, 1860). Historians now believe that Douglass had an affair for over twenty years, from 1856 to 1881, with Ottilie Assing, a German journalist and political radical. How does Douglass use religious references to bolster his claims, such as in the phrase "from the tomb of slavery, to the heaven of freedom"? The debate about the Amendment fractured many of Douglass’s long-term relationships with his women’s rights allies. He employs parallelism, a type of organization in which a writer places similar ideas in a similar structure. Read the excerpt from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Civil War Trust: The Road to Emancipation, National Archives: Garrison's Constitution, Frederick Douglass: The Constitution and Slavery, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Frederick Douglass. That sentiment was endorsed by his fellow abolitionist, Wendell Phillips; Ohio Senator Benjamin Wade; and African American activist John Mercer Langston. He was also a believer in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, as well as in the liberal values of the U.S. Constitution . After the Dred Scott decision, Frederick Douglass said he sought to have Americans live up to the principles of the Constitution. Thus, for instance, the American Government and the American Constitution are spoken of in a manner which would naturally lead the hearer to believe that one is identical with the other; when the truth is, they are distinct in character as is a ship and a compass. Editorials in The Revolution articulated concern over the inclusion of Black men in an oppressive patriarchal regime resulting in: violence, conquest, disease, and death; White women dominated by inferior Black men; and increased hostility from lower class men toward women. In 1851 Douglass began publicly discussing his view that the Constitution, especially in the context of federal jurisdiction, could be used to support emancipation. Frederick Douglass after reading the constitution he said, . Douglass initially endorsed the views of the radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who believed that the Constitution was a pro-slavery document, a “covenant with Hell.” Once he committed to his belief in the Constitution as a valid document, he used it as a tool in his arsenal to advocate for the freedom, and later the civil rights of African Americans and women. Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) was a former slave who became the greatest abolitionist orator of the antebellum period. From 1788 until 1860, only two opponents of slavery, John Adams and John Quincy Adams, held the nation's highest office, and for only a total of eight years. For Black men, this right was particularly important because it allowed them to protect their communities and families and insure their interests were represented in the American government. As a slave he grew up believing the constitution is what was allowing for the oppression of slaves. By becoming a political abolitionist, Douglass challenged the country to reconsider who was a citizen and entitled to protection under the Constitution. Douglass also wants the nation to re-evaluate what the founding fathers wrote into the constitution and I think it is key that he mentioned that nothing about slavery is mentioned in the constitution and therefore to support what it stands for would be to not support slavery. For instance, Garrison and his supporters believed Congress’ limited powers to interfere in the domestic institutions of individual states was included to appease slaveholders in the South. Douglass was invoking a principle of constitutional interpretation that holds that the text itself is all that matters, that the intentions of the framers are irrelevant. Ex-Vice-President Dallas tells us that the constitution is an object to which no American mind can be too attentive, and no American heart too devoted. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Douglass was realistic rather than quixotic about the realities facing African Americans. Douglass publicly changed his stance on the Constitution in the spring of 1851. 1 The Constitution of the United States: Is It Pro-Slavery or Anti-Slavery? Hopefully, community members will take time to reflect with family and friends on the distances between our everyday actions and our highest ideals. 215.409.6600 He also changed his mind about Garrison’s call to dissolve the Union. Douglass, a longtime member, announced that under this new policy his paper The North Star was ineligible for their endorsement. Frederick Douglass' July 4th Oration, "the Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT." I believe the best way to characterize Douglass’s attitude toward the Founding Fathers would be one of cautious approbation. New book highlights Frederick Douglass’s embrace of the “self-made man” Posted on February 12, 2018. 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