You may well cherish the memory of such men. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. There is hope in the thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon. What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? Speaking with simple eloquence, Douglas asked whites how they could expect him to feel joy, when his people had only experienced pain and suffering.
Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. You have no right to wear out and waste the hard-earned fame of your fathers to cover your indolence.
I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning.
Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery — the great sin and shame of America!
As with rivers so with nations. Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions!
I take this law to be one of the grossest infringements of Christian Liberty, and, if the churches and ministers of our country were not stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, they, too, would so regard it. Let this damning fact be perpetually told.
These men were generally well dressed men, and very captivating in their manners. 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 the crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.
As for those who maintain that slavery is part of a divine plan, Douglass argues that something which is inhuman cannot be considered divine. The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th [of] July oration. There I see the tenderest ties ruthlessly broken, to gratify the lust, caprice and rapacity of the buyers and sellers of men.
Where these go, may also go the merciless slave-hunter. They were not the men to look back. And instead of being the honest men I have before declared them to be, they were the veriest imposters that ever practiced on mankind. That trade has long since been denounced by this government, as piracy.
The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. But now is the time, the important time. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world, and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. With brave men there is always a remedy for oppression.
The drove moves tardily. He condemns America for being untrue to its founding principles, its past, and its present. Frederick Douglas seemed to share the sentiments that the holiday meant nothing to us as a race of people during his time.
At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. They saw themselves treated with sovereign indifference, coldness and scorn. But, besides general considerations, there were peculiar circumstances which make the advent of this republic an event of special attractiveness.
They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.
Born into slavery aroundDouglass became a key leader of the abolitionist movement. It fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement, the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet, you cling to it, as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes.
Your lawmakers have commanded all good citizens to engage in this hellish sport. Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?
In glaring violation of justice, in shameless disregard of the forms of administering law, in cunning arrangement to entrap the defenseless, and in diabolical intent, this Fugitive Slave Law stands alone in the annals of tyrannical legislation.
To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. That is a branch of knowledge in which you feel, perhaps, a much deeper interest than your speaker.Biblical Allusions: Douglass’s chief source of allusions in “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” is the Bible.
Alluding to biblical material was an intelligent strategy, since Douglass’s audience was composed largely of Christians, and even non-believers would have been familiar with the content of the Bible. Douglas’s speech regarding the Fourth of July expressed heartache, pain, embarrassment, and humiliation.
To those sitting before him, he let it be known that he was a former slave, and that they were the only ones who truly benefited from Independence Day. On July 5,Frederick Douglass gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held before an antebellum audience at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall.
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. Yale historian David Blight analyzes Douglass's speech and discusses its historical context in an episode of the podcast BackStory with the American History Guys (scroll down to the episode "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?").
On July 5,Frederick Douglass gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held before an antebellum audience at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall.Download