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Frederick Douglass The Meaning Of July 4th

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Published: Fri, 28 Apr 2017

Frederick Douglass earned the title of being called the forefather of the civil rights movement. Douglass alone with many others, were brilliant forces in the anti- slavery movement. Douglass was known for being a social reformer, a author, a journalist, human rights and women’s rights activist, a publisher, and last but not least a abolitionist all in one. He rose through determination and compelling strength to shape the American nation and make things as equal as possible. He committed himself to freedom; he dedicated his life to fighting for justice for all Americans, specifically African-Americans and minority groups. Frederick Douglass rose from slavery and became the leading African-American voice. He established himself in New Bedford, Massachusetts alone with his wife Anna Murray Douglass which is where he joined the abolitionist movement. In,” What to the slave is the forth of July” Fredrick Douglass express his discontent for the way the slaves were been treated and uses sarcasm in a way to prove his point that the slaves are entitles to there freedom, liberty and over all American democracy.

In this address, these two paragraphs show Douglass questioning how wrong slavery is and how the Declaration of Independence is a contradiction. Meaning it says one thing and people are doing the complete opposites and not holding to these words. The Declaration states, that all men are created equal, and have certain unalienable rights and that it includes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet and still that is not applying to everyone such as the slaves. Alone with him pointing out facts about the rights that slaves should have. I feel as if there is a little sarcastic and as he is asking rhetorical questions referring to the Declaration of Independence and speaking to those that are interested in seeing his point, that all men regardless of race should be entitled to liberty. Douglass says, “Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? Must I argue that a system, thus marked with blood and stained with pollution, is wrong? No; I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply” (Baym).

When it comes to the theme of the speech in these two chosen passages, it is a fight for American democracy for the slaves as well as freedom and equality, which helps keep the theme going. Aside from that I think that his tone is aggressive yet straight forward in the two paragraphs. He criticizes American ideology as being inconsistent and sides with activists who believe that the founding fathers really did mean to eliminate slavery and that the Constitution is a reflecting of this. He states, “Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation? …” (Baym).

Now, Fredrick Douglass wasn’t the only man that was fight for the rights of the slaves, there was Nat turner, John Brown, Abraham Lincoln and Henry David Thoreau just to name a few, who were fight the battle in their own way. Henry David Thoreau was a Harvard University graduate in 1837 and he was also in a group of writers and thinkers called the Transcendentalists. Now, the Transcendentalists held belief in something that transcended the limits of sensory experience. Much of their philosophical ideas were supported in the texts The Walden and Civil Disobedience that was published as Resistance to Civil Government. He wanted to undo the laws created for slaves. He felt it was “…appropriate and imperative to disobey unjust laws” (transcendentalism). Thoreau strongly opposed slavery and at times he would even go as far as helping slaves escape to Canada, which made him knowing as a criminal. He violated the Fugitive Slave Act, which he saw as an unjust law. This was an act where if slaves who ran away where caught, they would have to be returned. Thoreau’s writings had effects on the future were the fact it supported those men who did not want to be drafted, because they were against the war. If there was anything that he felt was unjust he would not hesitate in breaking the rules and often ended up in prison, luckily all of his adventures were recorded in journals.

Finally on the other hand you have a man like George Fitzhugh who was a layer from Virginia and wrote two books and many articles that advocated slavery. In the early nineteenth-century, pro-slavery forces moved from protective slavery as a necessary evil, to trying to make it look positive and good and it should not be abolished. Some people even claimed that African Americans were child-like people, who required protection and slavery granted a civilizing influence. Others claimed that Africa-American people were naturally inferior to white people and that slaves were incompetent of assimilating in free society. There were claims that slaves were essential, to sustain the advancement of white society in the south. George Fitzhugh Says “… the Negro race is inferior to the white race, and living in their midst, they would be far outstripped or outwitted in the chaos of free competition” (pbs). Then, while visiting Boston, Massachusetts and New Haven, Connecticut, Fitzhugh gave community sermons and employed in lively debates with northern abolitionists on the subject of slavery. George Fitzhugh stayed influenced that slavery was equitable and an indispensable form of labor and that southern black should stay enslaved without the option of being free, being they knew no better.

All three these men were very brave, as for speaking about what was important to them. They all made their points about slavery and I think that both of those passages fit right into Fredrick Douglas’s speech and show just how serious he is about freeing the slave and treating them as human beings instead of inhuman beast and keeping them enslaved as Fitzhugh would argue against.

Abraham Lincoln, “Gettysburg Address”

Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is very short yet has a powerful message in it. It is also one of the most quoted and admired speeches in American history. His text is brief, including three paragraphs. The Gettysburg Address was a heartfelt and precise message that he very much desired to present at a moment of national crisis. The Battle of Gettysburg was engaged in Pennsylvania in July 1863. There were thousands of men, both Union and Confederate that had been executed. Thousands of Union dead at Gettysburg had been quickly buried after the battle months prior and they were conclusively being accurately reburied, thanks to Lincoln’s speech. As the 16th president and wanting to bring a closing to slavery which he felt was an implied responsibility constructed into the United States Constitution, it was his challenging responsibility to commission and direct the Civil War at that time. In Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address his use of brevity and emotion is used to show how important it was to honor the dead solders who gave their lives in the war, with a proper burial.

Many of the soldiers that died in the Battle of Gettysburg were stacked upon the battlefield, rapidly decaying in the hot summer air. There were many sanitary concerns in which required an instantaneous response, so the Union soldiers that were dead were originally disposed of in field graves that where hastily dug insubstantial graves close to where the soldiers were demolish in battle. Can you image being in battle and within feet your friend, who is laying there dead and swollen and ready to burst at anytime, alone with the smell and insect? Many sentiment and politics demanded that the dead soldiers be commemorated in a more honorable way, than just digging a hole and throwing them in there. Now, there was land that was purchased near the battle site jus for the many union soldiers in the war and there they dug better graves, they were organized in radiating semicircles according to the states whose soldiers where in the battle. This is what the speech the battle of Gettysburg was about, honoring the falling soldiers in a proper way.

I think that part of the theme of the Gettysburg address is that a new, unified nation, firmer than before, will evolve from the ashes of the conflict. But, the main theme of the section would be to show honor and respect to the many soldier who put there lives on the line and died for a noble cause. Lincoln states “we have come to delicate a portion of that field a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. The brave men living and dead who struggled here, have consecrated it, far about our poor power to add or detract”(Baym). These two passages, being that the speech was so short include the main points in the address which is what developed the theme of the entire address. To show that we appreciate the men that went to war for a good cause by giving them a proper burial and not allowing their bodies to just lie around like nothing in the battle field.

Now, Edward Everett gave a speech in Gettysburg before Abraham Lincoln. He relates to Lincoln in many ways being he was one of Lincoln’s strongest supporters for his campaign election in 1864, as well as a supporter of the union. Although he opposed slavery, he recognized that any attempts to abolish it would lead to war and disunion between the north and south. He was invited to give a speech at the dedication and he spoke for two hours as compared to Abraham Lincoln. “It was appointed by law in Athens, that the obsequies of the citizens who fell in battle should be performed at the public expense, and in the most honorable manner. Their bones were carefully gathered up from the funeral pyre where their bodies were consumed, and brought home to the city” (Southard). He sees where these men should be honored as does Lincoln and I think there where many people who felt like these soldiers should be honored.

As far as writers that were against the cemetery there weren’t any that comes to mind. But when it comes to the Union, the south was not on board with ending slavery and as we can see which is the reason for the war. These two men had that same out look on things but when it came to their speech they were very different as far as details and length. But they both made their point about making sure those people were honored by all means.

Work cited

Fredrick Douglass

Baym, Nina, and Robert Levine, eds. Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. Vol. B. New York: &company, 2012. 1-1756. Print.

“Declaration of Independence – Text Transcript.” Declaration of Independence – Text Transcript. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2012. .

Garcia, Adriana. “Defense of Slavery: A George Fitzhugh.” Defense of Slavery: A George Fitzhugh. N.P., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2012. .

“Henry David Thoreau.” Henry David Thoreau. Psymon, n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2012. .

Mintz, Steven. “Digital History.” Digital History. N.P., 2006. Web. 28 Sept. 2012. .

Abraham Lincoln

Baym, Nina, and Robert Levine, eds. “Address Elivered at the Dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg, November 19, 1863.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. Vol. B. New York: &company, 2012. 1-1756. Print.

Ellis-Christensen, Tricia, and O. Wallace. “Who Is Abraham Lincoln.” WiseGeek. Conjecture, 27 Sept. 2012. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. .

Merrifield, Kerry. “The Evolution of National Cemeteries in the United States.” National Cemeteries. N.p., 1961. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. .

Southard, F. Stillion. “Edward Everett, “Gettysburg Address,†19 November 1863.” Edward Everett, “Gettysburg Address,†19 November 1863 |. N.p., 2007. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. .

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