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Home » Frederick Douglass: The Hypocrisy of American Slavery, 1852 (Transcript)

Frederick Douglass: The Hypocrisy of American Slavery, 1852 (Transcript)

Frederick Douglass 1852

Born a slave in Maryland, Douglass escaped in 1838 and earned widespread acclaim for his 1845 autobiography. Invited to speak as part of July 4 festivities in his adopted hometown of Rochester, N.Y., the abolitionist took the opportunity to rage at the injustice of slavery.

Best quote from this speech: 

“Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.”

Frederick Douglass – July 4, 1852

Fellow citizens, pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence?

Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits, and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions. Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him?

Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”

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