Frederick Douglass

"What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"

An Address Delivered in Rochester, New York, July 5, 1852, by Frederick Douglass (1817–1895)

Abolitionist and feminist. Why was slavery now an anachronism and how did the Industrial Revolution and federalism bring the crisis to a head?


1. Independence Day only a measure of the distance between master and bondsman.

2. United States compared to the infamous Babylon.

3. Millions in chains.

4. America false to her values.

5. Moral authority of humanity, liberty, the Constitution, and the Bible.

6. The Negro as a man by law, though rigidly defined by the criminal codes. Law gives Africans a moral, legal, and intellectual capacity and hence potential status in society.

7. Negro as a man by virtue of the fact the he is engaged in every trade, profession, and commercial activity. In addition, he is God fearing. Entitled to the fruits of his labor and rights in his own property, including body. Issue of moral sensibility.

8. Hypocrisy of supporting revolutionary self-determination in Europe while simultaneously enslaving three million African Americans. A practical problem.

9. God says love, yet whites hate blacks; inalienable rights of the Constitution belied by cruel practice of slavery. Abolitionists aplenty in the nation. John Brown.

10. White men steal the product of their labor—against natural laws.

11. Crimes against God and call for a revolution to rouse the public to take action. Right to revolution. Might makes right.

Conclusions damning: "Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of the nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolutionary barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival."