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Stop Misquoting The Great Abolitionist Frederick Douglass To Slander America
The Federalist ^ | July 8, 2020 | Jimmy Sengenberger

Posted on 07/08/2020 8:08:31 AM PDT by Kaslin

Black Lives Matter activists cite Douglass’s 1852 speech ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?’ as proof America is evil. They utterly miss his point.

Last week on CNN, as contributor Angela Rye accused White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnaney and President Trump of failing to understand the history of black America, she referred to the legendary Frederick Douglass. “Frederick Douglass said about Independence Day in this country, what to the slave is the Fourth of July?” she said. “And I would invite them to even start there, as a reading principle, to see how different we see this country.”

Douglass is among the greatest of Americans. But when he was born in February 1818, not only was he denied American citizenship and the rights that come with it; he was denied his very humanity. On July 5, 1852, Douglass — then 34 years old and not long after he was himself freed from slavery — addressed an Independence Day gathering of abolitionists in Rochester, New York. There, he presented his most famous speech: “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

Yet, as Black Lives Matter activists and left-wing leaders read and reference Douglass’s 1852 speech, they cherry-pick only part of his lengthy address. Consequently, they miss Douglass’s real message: that America’s founding documents are documents of liberty, and slavery is an affront to the principles they espouse.

A Resounding Condemnation of Slavery

On Friday, National Public Radio posted a video of several, young descendants of Frederick Douglass narrating excerpts from his 1852 address, in which he resoundingly condemns the evil institution of slavery. “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” they quote their ancestor. “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 … There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”

They go on: “For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”

Amen. Douglass, born a slave, rightly devotes paragraph after paragraph to decrying slavery. Yet he does so much more. Unfortunately, NPR ignores the essential portion of the speech. The only hopeful line NPR asks these young people to read is, “Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country.” But by leaving out Douglass’s praise of America’s founding documents and leaders, his essential argument — that slavery is incompatible with America’s culture of liberty — is lost.

A ‘Glorious Liberty Document’

Frederick Douglass would have likely found himself out-of-place in the Black Lives Matter movement. Although he asserts that Independence Day did not belong to the slave, he does not assail the Declaration, the Constitution, or their authors. Instead, he praises them and uses them in his appeal. To wit, “I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny … The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles.”

Of its signatories, Douglas argues, “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. 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.”

He also contends that “there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing [slavery]; 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? … is it in the temple? It is neither.”

“Now,” Douglass continues, “take the Constitution according to its plain reading, and I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand, it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery.”

Without a doubt, Frederick Douglass held the framers, the Declaration and the Constitution in high esteem. One can only come to the opposite conclusion if one ignores the words “saving principles,” “great men,” “GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT,” and “hostile to the existence of slavery” from Douglass’s 1852 speech.

What he found fault in, however, was the utter hypocrisy of the United States in its protection of slavery. In this, he was undoubtedly right.

A Failure to Live Up to ‘Saving Principles’

In his 1852 address, Douglass unequivocally excoriated the abject evils of slavery — its brutality, inhumanity, and horrors. Consequently, it is reasonable that, when people think of this speech, they think of his penetrating condemnation of slavery. Douglass did so brilliantly and eloquently, in a manner both timely and significant.

While righteously condemning slavery as only a liberated slave could, he touts the authors of the Declaration, many of whom were slaveholders, and acknowledges their sizable contributions. The reality, as Douglass forcefully frames it, is that during the 1850s, America was far astray from the ideals of liberty espoused in the Declaration and affirmed in the Constitution. Again, he was correct.

Douglass recognizes his exclusion from Independence Day, yet he acknowledges the Declaration is a statement of “saving principles” — principles the United States was not, and often still is not, living up to. More than anyone alive today, Frederick Douglass could justifiably disparage the Declaration and the Constitution if he thought it warranted. Instead, in 1852, he acknowledged the truth about them and argued that America needed to fulfill its principles and eradicate slavery. It took us far too long to do so, but, through the course and outcome of a bloody civil war, we ultimately did.

For those who only look to Douglass’s condemnation of slavery, they miss something significant. They miss his entire point.

The Real Lesson

Today’s Left condemns the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution as flawed documents created by racist writers. Accordingly, we should tear down their statues and ignore their words in some sort of historical correction. Douglass rejected this view, particularly because he used these very documents, the ideals they represented, and the better traits of the men who wrote them to underpin his arguments against American slavery. And while he could appeal to the better angels of America’s culture of liberty, he would have been unable to do under the regimes of the Aztec Empire or with the Mongol’s under the rule of Genghis Khan.

Douglass was correct in his approach then, and he would be correct today. The spirit of Frederick Douglass can guide us even now, but we must be mindful to carefully read and understand him so that we may continue America’s advance into the future.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: antiamericanism; blacklivesmatter; blmmovement; decofindependence; defundnpr; defundpbs; defundpbsnpr; fourthofjuly; frederickdouglass; independenceday; npr; orwelliannightmare; pbs; revisionisthistory; stalinsttactics; usconstitution; waron4thofjuly; waronholidays

1 posted on 07/08/2020 8:08:31 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

Cherry picking the statements and views of historic figures is not new for Liberals.

Two advantages come to mind:
1. The speaker isn’t here to correct the lie
2. Liberals’ constituents aren’t smart enough to research the facts on their own or aren’t themselves directly familiar WITH the facts to challenge the lie, AS a lie.

2 posted on 07/08/2020 8:18:16 AM PDT by SMARTY (Freedom from effort in the present means effort has been stored up, in the past. T Roosevelt)
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To: AdmSmith; AnonymousConservative; Arthur Wildfire! March; Berosus; Bockscar; cardinal4; ColdOne; ...

Partisan Media Shills update.

Defund NPR. Defund PBS.

3 posted on 07/08/2020 8:22:36 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager imagining managing an imaginary menagerie.)
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The author quotes: ““I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny … The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles.”

The next sentence, an imperative:


4 posted on 07/08/2020 8:30:08 AM PDT by ALPAPilot
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To: SunkenCiv

Defund NPR. Defund PBS. Defund Planned Parenthood.

5 posted on 07/08/2020 9:08:29 AM PDT by TiGuy22
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To: Kaslin

The only way this ends is with massive bloodshed. The left isn’t going to listen to reason or change their mind. We cannot coexist with the left. Not our fault. Don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing. The left can’t help but start something, so...

6 posted on 07/08/2020 9:35:10 AM PDT by bk1000 (Banned from Breitbart)
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To: Kaslin


7 posted on 07/08/2020 9:39:14 AM PDT by Sergio (An object at rest cannot be stopped! - The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight)
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To: bk1000

See my tag line.


8 posted on 07/08/2020 9:41:06 AM PDT by Lurker (Peaceful coexistence with the Left is not possible. Stop pretending that it is.)
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>>Cherry picking the statements and views of historic figures is not new for Liberals.

Case in point Joe BiteMe Biden...

Sen. Biden unjustly leveled charges against Justice Clarence Thomas during his own Supreme Court nomination:

Senator Biden was the first questioner. Instead of the softball questions he’d promised to ask, he threw a beanball straight at my head, quoting from a speech I’d given four years earlier at the Pacific Legal Foundation and challenging me to defend what I’d said. ”I find attractive the arguments of scholars such as Stephen Macedo, who defend an activist Supreme Court that would strike down laws restricting property rights.” That caught me off guard, and I had no recollection of making so atypical a statement, which shook me up even more. “Now, it would seem to me what you were talking about,” Senator Biden went on to say, “is you find it attractive the fact that they are activists and they would like to strike down existing laws that impact on restricting the use of property rights, because you know, that is what they write about.”

Since I didn’t remember making the statement in the first place, I didn’t know how to respond to it. All I could say in reply was that “it has been some time since I have read Professor Macedo … But I don’t believe that in my writings I have indicated that we should have an activist Supreme Court.” It was, I knew, a weak answer. Fortunately, though, the young lawyers who had helped prepare me for the hearing had loaded all of my speeches into a computer and at the first break in the proceedings they looked this one up. The senator, they found, had wrenched my words out of context. I looked at the text and saw that the passage he’d read out loud had been immediately followed by two other sentences: “But the libertarian argument overlooks the place of the Supreme Court in a scheme of separation of powers. One does not strengthen self-government and the rule of law by having the non-democratic branch of the government make policy.” The point I’d been making was the opposite of the one that Senator Biden claimed I had made.

pp 235-236 of "My Grandfather's Son" by Clarence Thomas
9 posted on 07/08/2020 10:39:10 AM PDT by a fool in paradise (Joe Biden- "First thing I'd do is repeal those Trump tax cuts." (May 4th, 2019))
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To: SunkenCiv
“There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public.

Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs-partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays.

Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”

- Booker T. Washington, historical black educator and Presidential advisor

He described NLR/PBS, the MSM, Sharpton & Jackson & Kepernick,'s all about the $$$$.

10 posted on 07/08/2020 10:52:36 AM PDT by polymuser (It's discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and so few by deceit. Noel Coward)
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To: polymuser

11 posted on 07/08/2020 11:51:26 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager imagining managing an imaginary menagerie.)
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To: Kaslin

Who’s going to make them stop Jimmy?

12 posted on 07/08/2020 11:58:03 AM PDT by The Toll
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13 posted on 07/09/2020 4:46:28 PM PDT by foreverfree
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