Frederick Douglass: Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism
For Frederick Douglass, the iconic nineteenth-century slave and abolitionist, the foundations for his arguments in support of racial equality rested on natural rights and natural law--and the bold proclamation of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. But because many Americans never observed this principle--and in Douglass's day even renounced it--he made it his life's work to move the nation toward this vision of a more noble liberalism. Peter Myers now considers that effort and the natural rights arguments by which Douglass confronted race in America. Myers examines the philosophic core of Douglass's political thought, offering a greater understanding of its depth and coherence. He depicts Douglass as the leading thinker to apply the Founders' doctrine of natural rights to the plight of African Americans--an activist who grounded his arguments on the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the inherent injustice not only of slavery but of any form of racial superiority. Myers first reconsiders Douglass's descriptive analysis of slavery, developing his arguments for its natural wrongness and for its natural weakness in conjunction with the right of resistance. He then examines Douglass's understandings of civil government in general and of the U.S. constitutional order in particular, exploring his argument on the Constitution's relation to slavery and his thoughts on the powers and duties of the federal and state governments in the matter of postslavery race relations--including new insight into Douglass's controversial "do nothing" doctrine. Myers argues that Douglass's political thought at its core is both more coherent and more defensible in substancethan his critics acknowledge. He maintains that Douglass was right in finding the natural rights principles of the Declaration a sufficient theoretical basis for addressing the nation's racial problems and contends that his hopefulness for the demise of slavery and white supremacy was marked by moderation and realism. Myers finds in Douglass's political thought the foundations of a revitalized argument for the mainstream civil rights, integrationist tradition of African American political thought. His analysis offers a new way of looking at an important thinker, as well as a compelling case for hoping that race relations in America will improve over time.
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The True Philosophy of Slavery
Race and the Constitution of Liberty
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abolition abolitionism abolitionist achievement affirmed African Americans Amendment antislavery Bondage and Freedom Cambridge civil rights claim clause Colored condition Constitution Constitution's Covey Creative Conflict critics Declaration defend despotism Douglass argued Douglass's argument Douglass's understanding Drew Gilpin Faust duty Edward Covey effect emancipation emigration emigrationists emphasis original enslaved equal federal Founders framers Frederick Douglass freedpeople Fugitive Slave Garrison Garrisonian hopefulness human nature injustice Jefferson justice labor Lecture on Slavery liberal liberty Lincoln Martin master means ment Moral Government natural law natural rights natural-law Negro Notes to Pages numbers objection one's political thought prejudice principles progress proslavery race pride racial radical reason repr represented Republican resistance revolution ruling sentiment slave power slaveholders slavery's society speech spirit Spooner suffrage TFDP tion Treatise of Government U.S. Constitution Unconstitutionality of Slavery United University Press virtue W. E. B. Du Bois William William Lloyd Garrison York