Fredrick Douglas, from an early age, showed that he was a person who was not afraid to pursue what he wanted. As a young boy he taught himself to read although slaves were forbidden to have an education (Cummings 252). He was so “spirited” that his master sent him to a “slave breaker” yet this didn’t deter Douglas who finally escaped to the North to join the abolitionist movement ( Cummings 253).
Douglas was very outspoken, not only criticizing the Southern slaveholder but also Northern citizens and the American political system for their implicit support of slavery. In his Speech at the Anti-Slavery Association, Douglas states,”I want every man north of Mason and Dixon’s line, whenever they attend an antislavery meeting, to remember that it is Northern arm that does this; that you are not only guilty of withholding your influence, but that you are the positive holders of the slave, and that in your right arm rests the physical power that keeps him under the yoke” (Cummings 254). Douglas was harsh with those in the North that stood by and let laws stand that supported Southern slave-owners and their way of life. He held them just as responsible for the evils of slavery as that were actually doing the buying and selling.
Many Americans at this time claimed that “the law is on our side” or “it is legal”. However, Douglas had a different view about this attitude, “Friends, I wish to stab no man, but if you stand on the side of the slaveholder, and cry out “the Union as it is”, “the Constitution as it is,” “the Church as it is,” you may expect that the heart that throbs beneath this bosom, will give utterance against you. I am bound to speak, and whenever there is opportunity to do so, I will speak against slavery…(Cummings 254). Douglas considered his conscience more important than the status quo, regardless of the laws that supported the current situation. He was not afraid to stand for what he believed was right and thought all people should do the same.
Douglas devoted his life to ending slavery, believing that all people deserved to be treated equally. He was very honest and direct when he spoke about what he thought was right. I have been in situations where I have believed that a cause or situation was so important that I had to speak up and do something about. Sometime I have lost friends and the worst case, my parents and siblings no longer speak to me. But some issues are that important, I think. What is your opinion? Is there an issue that you have advocated for that caused problems for you?
Cummings, Michael S. “Speech at Anti-Slavery Association (1848)”. American Political Thought. 7th ed. Los Angeles: Sage, 2015. 253-255. Print.