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We do too much "heroification" in America, according to James W. Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (one of his several books that ought to be on everybody's shelf). Like me, he thinks the word hero has been cheapened, ending up more often a description for football quarterbacks who throw perfect last-minute passes than for, say, the passerby who risks her own life to pull a child from a flooding river.

Heroification describes what textbooks, too many teachers, and the likes of Lynne Cheney have done to historical figures such as the deeply racist Woodrow Wilson and a multitude of other notable Americans. The process of heroification not only turns the notorious into role models while many people who actually deserve the praise they get are turned into one-dimensional stereotypes without flaws. As if we couldn't stand to see our heroes as human beings who don't always get things right, who, in fact, sometimes behave deplorably and hypocritically.

Despite his flaws, my number one personal hero is—and has been since I was introduced at age 14 to his autobiography—Frederick Douglass, the runaway slave whose persistent eloquence was one of the leading factors persuading Abraham Lincoln to bring black soldiers into the Union Army. Without those 180,000 men who ultimately fought, quite literally, for freedom, it is uncertain that the Union would have survived.

But Douglass was deeply unhappy with Lincoln in 1860, labeling him “an excellent slave hound” because of Honest Abe's support for the Fugitive Slave Act that required authorities in non-slave states to turn over runaways to their owners, or rather, most usually to bounty hunters. Once taken, the runaways were returned whence they came or often sold "down river," where a short life of overwork in the coastal cane fields or elsewhere awaited them.

After the election, Douglass and Lincoln engaged in a public and private political pas de deux right up through the president's second election.

Lincoln's Inaugural address sparked a ferocious critique from Douglass, who repeated the "slave hound" accusation. He was disgusted that the president had spent several paragraphs of that address argumentatively defending the practice of returning slaves, even repeating the Constitution's “shall be delivered up” phrase in regard to the human property the South had enshrined as their right for being part of the Union in the first place.

In Douglass' view, the effect of Lincoln's trying to hang onto slave states to save the Union by turning over runaways was tantamount to killing them since a captured runaway's life was usually very short. Lincoln was, Douglass said with that slave-hound label, no different than the dogs sent to sniff out and corner a runaway until the master came to collect him. Pretty strong stuff to characterize the guy who would become known as The Great Emancipator. But Douglass wanted action in 1861. This was the moment, one of those rare crises that a much later politician would say should never be wasted. This incipient rebellion shouldn't be soothed away with concession. For him and many other abolitionists of the time, now was the time for no more delay. But delay was exactly what Lincoln was proposing on his very first day in office.

David W. Blight writes:

It is too easy to simply conclude that the black activist was out of touch with the president’s dire situation and the necessity of pragmatic overtures for peace. At this point, his was indeed a higher law than the Constitution. Without blinking, Douglass compared slavery itself, and especially any effort to return fugitive slaves to bondage, to “murder.” In the rhetoric of the lecture platform, where Douglass had few peers, he proclaimed: “Your money or your life, says the pirate; your liberty or your life, says the slaveholder. And where is the difference between the pirate and the slaveholder?”
Please continue below the fold:

Douglass was for some while openly contemptuous of Lincoln after that speech. Even though Lincoln had surely hoped to soothe the slavers, by the time of the Inaugural in early March 1861, seven states had already seceded and the opening cannon shots at Fort Sumter were less than six weeks away. Douglass desired a war speech, a war focused on ending slavery and one in which colonization—the era's buzzword for freeing slaves but also sending them "back" to Africa or to islands of the Caribbean—was not on the agenda. Lincoln still supported colonization as late as the final months of 1864.

As James Oakes writes in The Radical and The Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics (2007). Douglass wanted:

no war but an Abolition War; no peace but an Abolition Peace; liberty for all, chains for none; the black man a soldier in war, a laborer in peace; a voter at the South as well as the North; America his permanent home, and all Americans his fellow countrymen. Such, fellow citizens, is my idea of the mission of the war. If accomplished, our glory as a nation will be complete, our peace will flow like a river, and our foundations will be the everlasting rocks.

The Inaugural response was far from Douglass's only criticism. But over time, as recounted in Paul Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick's Douglass and Lincoln: How a Revolutionary Black Leader and a Reluctant Liberator Struggled to End Slavery and Save the Union (2007), the born-into-bondage ship caulker from Maryland met the free-born rail splitter from Illinois and their collision had a tremendous impact on the course of the war, on slavery and, although Lincoln was by then dead, the post-Civil War amendments.

••• •••

Nearly a decade before the two men began their clash of ideas and synthesis of tactics, Douglass gave an Independence Day speech (on the 5th of July) that tells the grim truth of the era in which he lived and shows clearly from where all that anger shown in the early years of Lincoln's presidency derives:

As historian Eric Foner wrote in 2004:

At an Independence Day meeting sponsored by the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society in 1852, the former slave Frederick Douglass delivered one of the nineteenth century's greatest orations. His theme was the contradiction between American slavery and American freedom.

Douglass did not mince words. He spoke of a government that mouthed the language of liberty yet committed "crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages"; of patriotism reduced to "swelling vanity"; of hypocrisy destroying the country's "moral power abroad." Although slavery is gone, Douglass's critique remains as relevant as in 1852. But so too does his optimism that the days of empire are over, and that in the modern world abuses cannot permanently be hidden from the light of day. Douglass, not the leaders of a slave-holding republic, was the genuine patriot, who called on his listeners to reclaim the "great principles" of the Declaration from those who had defiled and betrayed them. That is a truly patriotic goal for our own Fourth of July.

Here are excerpts of the speech Douglass gave in Rochester, where he had founded the abolitionist newspaper, The North Star. To make the excerpts more readable, I have added paragraph breaks that do not appear at the linked site:
Fellow citizens, pardon me, 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."

But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me.

This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn that it is dangerous to copy the example of nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can today take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people.

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! We wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."

Fellow citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! Whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorry this day, "may my right hand cleave to the roof of my mouth"! To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world.

My subject, then, fellow citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave's point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine. I do not hesitate to declare with all my soul that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July!

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. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the Constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate, I will not excuse"; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, shall not confess to be right and just....

For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not as astonishing that, while we are plowing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver, and gold; that while we are reading, writing, and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants, and secretaries, having among us lawyers doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators, and teachers; and that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hillside, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives, and children, and above all, confessing and worshiping the Christian's God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!...

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? 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....

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States at this very hour.

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 this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival. [...]

Behold the practical operation of this internal slave-trade, the American slave-trade, sustained by American politics and American religion. Here you will see men and women reared like swine for the market. You know what is a swine-drover? I will show you a man-drover. They inhabit all our Southern States. They perambulate the country, and crowd the highways of the nation, with droves of human stock. You will see one of these human flesh jobbers, armed with pistol, whip, and Bowie-knife, driving a company of a hundred men, women, and children, from the Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans.

These wretched people are to be sold singly, or in lots, to suit purchasers. They are food for the cotton-field and the deadly sugar-mill. Mark the sad procession, as it moves wearily along, and the inhuman wretch who drives them. Hear his savage yells and his blood-curdling oaths, as he hurries on his affrighted captives! There, see the old man with locks thinned and gray. Cast one glance, if you please, upon that young mother, whose shoulders are bare to the scorching sun, her briny tears falling on the brow of the babe in her arms.

See, too, that girl of thirteen, weeping, yes! weeping, as she thinks of the mother from whom she has been torn! The drove moves tardily. Heat and sorrow have nearly consumed their strength; suddenly you hear a quick snap, like the discharge of a rifle; the fetters clank, and the chain rattles simultaneously; your ears are saluted with a scream, that seems to have torn its way to the centre of your soul The crack you heard was the sound of the slave-whip; the scream you heard was from the woman you saw with the babe. Her speed had faltered under the weight of her child and her chains! that gash on her shoulder tells her to move on.

Follow this drove to New Orleans. Attend the auction; see men examined like horses; see the forms of women rudely and brutally exposed to the shock ing gaze of American slave-buyers. See this drove sold and separated forever; and never forget the deep, sad sobs that arose from that scattered multitude. Tell me, citizens, where, under the sun, you can witness a spectacle more fiendish and shocking. Yet this is but a glance at the American slave-trade, as it exists, at this moment, in the ruling part of the United States. [...]

Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties) is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your countrymen. You hurl your anathemas at the crowned headed tyrants of Russia and Austria and pride yourselves on your Democratic institutions, while you yourselves consent to be the mere tools and body-guards of the tyrants of Virginia and Carolina.

You invite to your shores fugitives of oppression from abroad, honor them with banquets, greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, protect them, and pour out your money to them like water; but the fugitives from oppression in your own land you advertise, hunt, arrest, shoot, and kill. You glory in your refinement and your universal education; yet you maintain a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character of a nation-a system begun in avarice, supported in pride, and perpetuated in cruelty.

You shed tears over fallen Hungary, and make the sad story of her wrongs the theme of your poets, statesmen, and orators, till your gallant sons are ready to fly to arms to vindicate her cause against the oppressor; but, in regard to the ten thousand wrongs of the American slave, you would enforce the strictest silence, and would hail him as an enemy of the nation who dares to make those wrongs the subject of public discourse! You are all on fire at the mention of liberty for France or for Ireland; but are as cold as an iceberg at the thought of liberty for the enslaved of America.

You discourse eloquently on the dignity of labor; yet, you sustain a system which, in its very essence, casts a stigma upon labor. You can bare your bosom to the storm of British artillery to throw off a three-penny tax on tea; and yet wring the last hard earned farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of your country. You profess to believe "that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth," and hath commanded all men, everywhere, to love one another; yet you notoriously hate (and glory in your hatred) all men whose skins are not colored like your own. You declare before the world, and are understood by the world to declare that you "hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain in alienable rights; and that among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, "is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose," a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.

Fellow-citizens, I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad: it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing and a bye-word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. it fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement; the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet you cling to it as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes.

Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation's bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever! [...]

Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. "The arm of the Lord is not shortened," and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from "the Declaration of Independence," the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.

Versions of this diary have appeared at Daily Kos since 2008.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's amazing (18+ / 0-)

    that the modern-day right is trying to claim Frederick Douglass as one of their own.

    29, white male, TX-07 (current), TN-09 (born), TN-08 (where parents live now)

    by TDDVandy on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:10:35 PM PDT

  •  What, to a slave, is the Fourth of July? (20+ / 0-)

    In his introduction he says this

    This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the 4th of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old. I am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young. Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation. Three score years and ten is the allotted time for individual men; but nations number their years by thousands. According to this fact, you are, even now, only in the beginning of your national career, still lingering in the period of childhood. I repeat, I am glad this is so. There is hope in the thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon. The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence.
    Impressible, I'm sure, in Douglass's case, means faith in the idea that slavery can be ended.

    Thanks for posting this today!

    -7.75, -8.10; . . . Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Boston (h/t Charles Pierce)

    by Dave in Northridge on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:12:03 PM PDT

  •  I will give Frederick Douglass your regards as (16+ / 0-)

    I cross the Frederick Douglass/Susan B. Anthony Bridge on my way to see the Rochester Red Wings take on the Pawtucket Red Sox this evening in Rochester, NY- Douglass' chosen home and burial place (in the Mount Hope Cemetery).
    Even my small town of Honeoye, NY, at one time the town with the most sheep in the nation, has Douglass in its claim to fame as he took a wife from among our residents, which did NOT please her father.

    The North Star, said to be the first newspaper produced by an African American, was published in Rochester, and Eastman Kodak Company still has an employee network, Network Northstar, in its name and dedicated to mentoring AA employees and helping anyone with issues pertaining to the same.
    (They also have NACK- Native American Council at Kodak, VetNet, The Women's Forum, APEX for Asian and Pacific rim employees, and a network for differently enabled people. I do so miss working there.)

    We do not forget in Rochester, NY our past and the significant figures that made us what we are today. Frederick Douglass figures prominently in all of it.

    Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

    by Gentle Giant on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:15:17 PM PDT

  •  Excellent post MB. Glad you (14+ / 0-)

    brought his words here today.

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:16:13 PM PDT

  •  Magnificent, MB (6+ / 0-)

    Thank you.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:18:59 PM PDT

  •  hero (5+ / 0-)

    A hero is more than someone who is brilliant--more than someone who is ahead of his times--more than someone proven correct by history.  A hero risks life and limb for a cause that does not enrich him/her.  John Brown was a hero.

    Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite. John Kenneth Galbraith .

    by melvynny on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:20:13 PM PDT

  •  Good And Bad in Many (7+ / 0-)

    Great article about Douglass.

    In our binary world, people are not zero or one -- lots of real numbers in between.

    President Lincoln was great in many ways, not so great in others as the article points out.

    Likewise, President Obama has many great traits but so many flaws that at times it is hard to tell him and George W apart.

    President Obama needs to be more liberal.

    by jimgilliamv2 on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:20:58 PM PDT

    •  It is always so. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat, eden4barack08

      No President has ever been flawless.

      It is fair to criticize our President's flaws, but I remain resolute against the bigotry that is his opposition's weapon of last resort.

      And I see vast differences between him and President Bush. Don't try to equivocate them with me. I don't want to clutter up this thread with our back and forth on the matter, but I'm more than happy to disabuse you of the notion that they are hard to tell apart in a private exchange.

      Or public, if you want to start a topic on it.

      Right many are called, and damn few are chosen.

      by Idaho07 on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 02:44:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  False moral equivalence (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      unfangus, T Maysle, oldflowerchild

      is the bane of our political discourse. I heard the infamous Lanny Davis and former NY Gov. George Pataki on a panel at our 45th Reunion claiming that Rachel Maddow is as bad as Rush Limbaugh, and I loudly booed them both.

      No, it is not hard to tell Bush and Obama apart unless you are willfully blind. You might as well argue that there was no difference between Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis because Lincoln went into the Civil War determined to leave slavery alone where it existed, and only to prevent its spread; whereas Davis joined in writing slavery into the Confederate Constutition, and proclaiming that that was the Original Intent of the slaveowning Founders, notably Washington and Jefferson.

      This is the kind of thinking, on the part of Naderites, that finally let Bush steal Florida in 2000, on top of the five other ways they set out to steal it, plus various forms of shocking bad luck for Gore and for Democracy, and let the Supreme Court steal the entire election for Bush and the NeoCons.

      Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

      by Mokurai on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 03:14:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Didn't Douglass come to respect & like Lincoln? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Noisy Democrat

      A lot of what Lincoln was doing then was establishing a minimum-type case, as if to say to the South, "we are willing to do all these things you want," with the unstated but obvious conclusion "and that's still not enough for you."

      He was establishing grounds for a rapproachment (sp.?) which the South would reject. Call it "giving them enough rope to hang themselves."

      This framing was necessary if the North was really going to fight.

      Lincoln was a politician who was pretty savvy about what the people would accept.

      An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

      by mightymouse on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 05:45:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  When asked who are the five people in history (7+ / 0-)

    you would most like to have a beer with, this fellow has always been on mine.

    Living the austerity dream.

    by jwinIL14 on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:24:57 PM PDT

  •  I can see why Douglass would be #1 (11+ / 0-)

    in your personal pantheon. He was brilliant and inspiring in so many dimensions. This country was lucky to have his passionate devotion, and his tireless commitment to push Americans to live up to our professed ideals. I'm not sure I can think of anyone to rank higher.
    Thanks for reprinting a portion of this speech once again. Reading it ought to be part of every commemoration of the day.

    Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:27:06 PM PDT

  •  Luckily, I found an antebellum blog (12+ / 0-)

    The only surviving post seems to be addressed to Frederick Douglass after his "slave hound" comment. I quote it in its entirety: "Oh, I guess you'd rather have President Breckenridge?"

    Pretty devastating, no?


  •  Clearly A Hair on Fire CT spreader. (8+ / 0-)

    Douglass simply did not understand the realities of needing to work WITH the slave states.  This was clearly a case where the need to look forward was paramount.

    If there was ever going to be a union, which is what we really need, what was needed was to reach across the aisle and embrace those with different viewpoints.


    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:29:23 PM PDT

  •  Complicated Times (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    uciguy30, mightymouse

    The most interesting times for me take place a year or two before the Civil War. The mutual paranoia built by leaders, speakers, and movements brought both portions of the country to a fevered pitch.

    We fought because after a time we had no trust, nor faith in diplomacy. Southerners believed that abolitionists were teaching slaves to poisonous the water supply. The closest we've come to that time was in 1968, in my opinion. It was as if the entire country had gone stark raving mad and I hope we never see anything like it ever again.

    One Civil War was enough.

    I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I lead you in, some one else would lead you out. - Eugene Debs.

    by cabaretic on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:46:09 PM PDT

    •  correction (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      uciguy30, Eric Nelson

      to poison...

      I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I lead you in, some one else would lead you out. - Eugene Debs.

      by cabaretic on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:46:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Oh, I don't know (4+ / 0-)

      Seems like we are pretty close to that edge again, given the RW screech that they need to take the country back due to gun confiscation, gay marriage, abortion, etc. Most, if not all, of my tea party acquaintances firmly believe that a "revolution" is mandated because of the Big O's socialism, etc.  You know their talking points.  A few are actively purchasing and storing guns and ammo, survivalist supplies, and preparing for the day all hell will break lose.  Are we at a fevered pitch yet today?  Sure seems like it at times.

      •  And yet... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eric Nelson, unfangus

        I don't see mass demonstrations out in the streets or coups like in Egypt. It's easy to project what we want to see or even wish to avoid. I honestly don't believe we are anywhere near revolution or active revolt.

        The causes we face are pertinent to us, but they do not affect us personally. When there isn't food on store shelves or gas is $20 a gallon, then I can see it happening. But not until then.

        I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I lead you in, some one else would lead you out. - Eugene Debs.

        by cabaretic on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 02:07:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  That's what they would like you to think (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        In reality, the old South is going down for the third and very likely final time. The first was the Civil War, when they lost slavery and we got the Reconstruction Amendments to the Constitution; the second, the Civil Rights movement, when they lost Jim Crow segregation and we got the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts; and the third is the demographic apocalypse, as some call it, when we should be able to get the entire platform of the Progressive Caucuses in Congress, and look around for more while big business tries to find somebody else they can lie to in order to cobble a coalition together.

        Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

        by Mokurai on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 03:55:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think so. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      We fought because after a time we had no trust, nor faith in diplomacy.
      Not that I am deluded into believing any human congregation had %100 consensus, nor that there was any one reason for the civil war; there was the fundamental business of whether or not it was acceptable for human beings to be held as chattel. I am certain that not every Union supporter was an abolitionist but equally sure it had become the prevailing wind in hearts and minds that God would smite those who continued with such reprehensible practices.
      There are divides which do not permit thoughtful acquiescence. I think at least one side of the chasm of that era insisted on blood for any bargain to be had.
      •  it was a mix as i understand (0+ / 0-)

        Some in the North were afraid of slavery because they feared slaveowners would move north, bring black people into previously white areas, and take jobs away. There was probably some racism that animated the North as well as the South.

        Others were driven by their love of the USA and agreement with Lincoln's legalistic view that secession was intolerable - that once states joined they could not leave w/o agreement by the entire country.

        And then others hated slavery because it was evil and was corrupting the entire country. the richest American individuals were slave-owners, who had bent national policy to their own ends just as the super rich do today.

        An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

        by mightymouse on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 05:51:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  yes, agreed (0+ / 0-)

      supposedly all the national institutions broke in two in the 1850s - churches, etc. the connections broke down.

      An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

      by mightymouse on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 05:47:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank You MB (11+ / 0-)

    As the country celebrates the Fourth of July, we should never forget that it does not mean the same for everyone, and remember why even as we press forward positively.

  •  One final remark (0+ / 0-)

    Heroes have always been cheap ways of rewarding some quality of bravery and valor. To be seen as brave, rid yourself of humility and hire a PR firm. No one else will do it for you.

    I don't think we've ever really had many true heroes, if we consider all of human history. The Lou Gehrig types are unusual because they are so rare.

    I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I lead you in, some one else would lead you out. - Eugene Debs.

    by cabaretic on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:56:37 PM PDT

  •  funny how he didn't even have a cameo (14+ / 0-)

    in the movie about lincoln. hollywood is very big on whites saving, inspiring, or helping non-whites, but can't even manage a more complex and thus honest reading of how slavery finally was anolished.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:58:02 PM PDT

  •  Thanks. A great person. Often overlooked and (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Grassee, Eric Nelson, Aunt Pat, 714day

    almost always forgotten.

    "Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do..... Go back to your command, and try to think what are we going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do." Grant

    by shigeru on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 02:01:06 PM PDT

    •  Some additional input about Douglass (9+ / 0-)

      that you may not know. Prior to the desegregation of the Baltimore Maryland Public schools, the writings and speeches of Frederick Douglass was taught as a critical part of the curriculum  in the city's Negro schools. However this was completely discontinued within three years after the Baltimore schools were desegregated, and any discussion concerning Douglass in the Baltimore schools has disappeared to the point that the overwhelming majority of today's African American students in Baltimore don't even know who Frederick Douglass was or what  role he played in American history.

      The Library of Congress has the one and only complete collection of Douglass' writings and speeches including all of his North Star Newspaper publications and issues. It was thought at one time that the pro-slavery attack and fiery destruction of Douglass' home and North Star newspaper printing office in Rochester New York might have completely destroyed the valuable archive of the North Star newspaper forever. However a vigorous publicity campaign on behalf of the Library of Congress  several decades ago was successful in establishing a complete alternate North Star archive from the generosity of the general public who supplied copies of the many missing North Star issues. The Library of Congress Douglass collection also includes many important papers that Douglass wrote after he had been appointed Ambassador to the Nation of Haiti, including those that he wrote in protest leading up to his resignation from his Ambassadorial post.

      I urge anyone who is interested in doing any serious research into the writings and history of Frederick Douglass to avail themselves of this excellent facility in the Library of Congress.  

  •  I agree wholeheartedly (5+ / 0-)

    Both Loewen and Douglass are required reading for all Americans.  Sadly, neither makes it into the home schooled network.  

    I join others and thank you for a most excellent post.  

    Happy 4th to all.  Be safe out there folks.

  •  Thank you (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, Aunt Pat, 714day, unfangus

    most especially for your first two paragraphs! We call many "heroes" without discernment, often distorting their real natures and roles.  I must admit that my personal bugaboo is from Texas history ... the "heroes of the Alamo" plus Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston.  Invaders and opportunists, one and all. But that is a story for another day.

    Frederick Douglass was an amazing man.

    Again, thank you for reminding us that real people can work miracles and be real heroes

    I hate liars and I really hate skim milk which is only water that lies about being milk.

    by CorinaR on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 02:14:40 PM PDT

  •  One among Douglass's many great accomplishments (6+ / 0-)

    was living to die a natural death. Had he been born a century later he likely would not have...

    Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little bit. --Edward R. Murrow

    by chuckvw on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 02:14:44 PM PDT

  •  Every time I learn something more (8+ / 0-)
    Douglass desired a war speech, a war focused on ending slavery and one in which colonization—the era's buzzword for freeing slaves
    I did not know that colonization as any kind of solution was so seriously considered.

    Civil War - colonization

    President Lincoln's colonization projects ran into other problems. "'Many of them will colonize,' Lincoln predicted to Interior Department official T. J. Barnett in late 1862, and at the regular cabinet meeting that followed the unveiling of the preliminary proclamation, Lincoln assured everyone that 'he thought a treaty could be made' with a friendly government in West Africa or Central America 'to which the Negroes could be sent."47 Historian Allen C. Guelzo wrote: "But he was wrong on both counts.

    Free blacks in the north had opposed colonization for decades; they had no intention of leaving the only country they had ever known, and when he tried to persuade a delegation of African-Americans [in August 1862] headed by Edward M. Thomas of the Anglo-African Institute for the Encouragement of Industry and Art that 'it is better for us be separated,' the response was anything but enthusiastic.

    Thomas consulted 'with leading colored men in Phila., New York and Boston' and found them thoroughly cold to colonization. 'Mr. Lincoln assumes the language and arguments of an itinerant Colonization lecturer,' Frederick Douglass crisply complained, 'showing all his inconsistencies, his pride of race and blood, his contempt for Negroes and his canting hypocrisy.'"48
     - emphasis added

    Yes Frederick Douglass along with John Lewis are men who unreservedly deserve the mantel - hero - They spent a lie time proving it

     And this unaltered is as perfect a speech for today as it was when Frederick Dougleass first spoke it..

    Fellow-citizens, I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie.

     It destroys your moral power abroad: it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing and a bye-word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. it fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement; the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet you cling to it as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes.

    ..and one we need to hear today imo

      Thank you Meteor Blades

    P.S. Happy 4th of July one and all

  •  This! (6+ / 0-)

    Open racism and bigotry are rising once again in America. Neither will disappear from our silence, any more than they did in the silence of Douglass' time.

    His words should be re-spoken on every July 5th until we become the nation that we were meant to be from the very first.

    Right many are called, and damn few are chosen.

    by Idaho07 on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 02:36:34 PM PDT

  •  Hero. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    714day, Eric Nelson, mightymouse

    Thanks MB, through my tears.

  •  History is fixed in time (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades, mightymouse

    What would have become of Douglass with no Lincoln? What would have Lincoln become with no Douglass?

    Our largest religious tradition came from an ancient people who were led by kings whose greatest authority came from prophets who had no fear of speaking the truth to them. Indeed, the kings feared only the prophets.

    Thanks, MB. Like the ancient kings, we all need to be reminded from time to time by our own American prophets. They aren't many, and don't come along often, but the clarity of their moral force must be heeded and refreshed with every generation of us.

    Right many are called, and damn few are chosen.

    by Idaho07 on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 02:54:16 PM PDT

  •  Breckinridge, not Breckenridge (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 02:59:52 PM PDT

    •  WTH? This comment was supposed to reply to (0+ / 0-)

      gratuitous's comment upthread.

      My Karma just ran over your Dogma

      by FoundingFatherDAR on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 03:02:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  this is not... (0+ / 0-)

        This is not a reference to Myron/Myra Breckinridge, is it?  

        I walked by the New York homes of both Rex Reed and Mae West this morning, and had I been in better voice and had the humidity been more tolerable, I could have serenaded Mae with a resounding chorus of The Star Spangled Banner.  (There's a balcony several floors above street level at Mae's place.)  I did not continue 20 blocks north, to view the place where Raquel Welch once stayed, however, but it wasn't because of the heat or the humidity.  Nor did I trek out to Brooklyn Heights to see the Remsen Street apartment where a University of Texas classmate of Farrah Fawcett's once lived.  (The classmate has long-since returned to Texas.)  I just wasn't thinking of the movie until I read your post and linked it with my encounters.

        Instead, the movie I watched today was Dances With Wolves, due to John Dunbar's evolving views on America.  It's an excellent movie for this holiday or for any other day.  

  •  Woodrow Wilson (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This isn't the first time I have seen the OP go off on some random Woodrow Wilson hate. What did President Wilson do... have sex with the OP's great grandmother? Sheesh!

    Look President Wilson was a complicated person, but I view him in many ways like LBJ. Flawed... deeply flawed but also heroic.

    Wilson realized tht the current political system was not going to be able to hold the world together. His idea of a League of Nations was ground breaking and he campaigned so hard for it they he died of a stroke. In fact, I would consider President Wilson the last casualty of WWI.

    President Wilson did not want to punish Germany but the French and English had other plains. Together with Republican support in congress they torpedoed the League of Nations and rendered it useless.

    This lead directly to World War 2. So please stop with all the President Wilson hate.

    •  Are you serious? (7+ / 0-)

      Wilson was actually courted by black leaders in the 1912 campaign and how did he repay them?

      He allowed his words (defending the Ku Klux Lan) to be used in D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, he racially segregated the previously desegregated civil services in DC, he withheld visas from many black leaders who wanted to put American racism on the agenda of the Versailles talks, etc. etc. etc.

      and he never did allow black students at Princeton when he was President of the university.

      That's not a complicated person. That's a racist.

      Deeply flawed, yes. Heroic...perhaps in some ways..but he would have rather seen me and people like me lynched. Sorry that you can't handle the truth.

    •  random hate? Critiquing those who deserve... (5+ / 0-) be critiqued is not hate.

      If you want to argue that Wilson wasn't profoundly racist, make your case and we'll have a back and forth about it.

      If you are just saying that he was complex and did some good in his time of office, I've never said otherwise. My diplomatic history professor was a tremendous fan of Wilson (having written three books on him) and he passed along to his students an appreciation for some of Wilson's accomplishments and ideas in the international arena. But he also, in 1966, was scathing about Wilson's despicable race policies.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 04:33:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  He dragged the US into war (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, mightymouse

      cracked down on civil liberties

      curtailed free political speech

      made the nation safe for oligarchy

      if he was the last casualty of WWI, he only brought it on himself.

      Read Walter Karp's The Politics of War for detail & check this essay for a taste

  •  Thanks MB (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 03:05:59 PM PDT

  •  Something that was pointed out to me and I feel (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is quite important.  By the time the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted the civil war had progressed to the point that the Southern states were considerably weakened.  If freedom had been granted before that was the case there may have been no reason for the Southerners not to commit wholesale genocide against the African Americans in their midst.  While nothing but freedom was acceptable, living was paramount.

    I liken it to a losing army deciding to exterminate its prisoners.  I would hope anyone in the position to do so would make sure that could not happen before they drove their enemies to that possibility.

    •  Interesting point (0+ / 0-)

      Religion was always a big part of the south though. Attempted wholesale genocide against African Americans would've caused a secondary civil war within the southern.

      Its one thing to defend slavery, its another to endorse and carry out mass murder of African American babies and grand mothers.

  •  Shame not only belongs to... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, oldflowerchild, Eric Nelson, HCKAD

    a government, but also a religion.

    But the church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with the oppressors. It has made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the shield of American slave-hunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines, who stand as the very lights of the church, have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole slave system. They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.
    Thank you, Frederick Douglass.

    Glottal fricative and breathy-voiced mid-low central unrounded vowel, repeated, diphthong ending with a high front vowel.

    by glb3 on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 03:11:55 PM PDT

    •  American exceptionism, like... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Christian exceptionalism, are but mere words to bolster a claim for which neither has yet fully realized their desires. Enjoy your rocket's red glare today, if you must, then back to work. For tomorrow, and beyond, Human exceptionalism requires it.

      Glottal fricative and breathy-voiced mid-low central unrounded vowel, repeated, diphthong ending with a high front vowel.

      by glb3 on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 03:57:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've read a couple dozen diaries today. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This diary is the best diary I've read all year.

    Thank you.

    John Roberts? Melville Fuller?? WTF is the difference???.

    by Walt starr on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 04:33:28 PM PDT

  •  Thank you MB (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, mightymouse, navajo

    This speech by Douglass is a classic and should be taught with The Declaration of Independence.

  •  Thanks, as always, MB (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, mightymouse, DSPS owl

    I reread Douglass's oration from time to time. I have decided that I need to make it part of my Fourth of July observances every year, along with Lincoln's Cooper Union speech, which has also been growing on me for many years. Unless the demographic apocalypse predicted for the Republican Party turns out to be thorough enough so that we can pass the entire Progressive platform in a new Era of Good Feeling, and actually create the supposed Republic with Liberty and Justice for All, and no Under God nonsense. But no, even then we must not forget.

    Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

    by Mokurai on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 04:51:32 PM PDT

  •  This is the kind of history... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I would have paid attention to in school, at least I hope so. I did terrible at all those war and false hero glorification ones, specially since, in highschool, I studied both the French and the Persian one, the great Alexander on one side, the great Darius on the other down to more recent history o0,

    Un pour tous et tous pour un aka United we stand

    by livebyChocolate on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 06:08:47 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the great diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Racial hostility, homophobia and misogyny are braided together like strands of the same rope. When we fight one, we fight them all. - Charles M. Blow

    by blueoregon on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 10:41:11 PM PDT

  •  wow - thanks for that! (0+ / 0-)

    a wonderful speech indeed.

    An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

    by mightymouse on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 05:37:17 AM PDT

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