Frederick Douglass: Slave Life and His Constitution Views Essay
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Throughout reading “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”, one does not simply learn and discover the everyday average slave life style, Douglass incorporates his own mental philosophies as to how slavery and society is ran during that time by telling it from his own first person prospective, and he also uncovers the evils that slavery hides. Slaves during the antebellum of the Civil War had faced not only many physical threats by their slaveholder or master, but mental dangers as well.
Douglass’s Narrative demonstrates the double purpose of the work as both a personal account and a public argument. Douglass introduces the reader to his own circumstances by telling his birthplace and the fact that he does not know his own age. He then generalizes from his own experience, explaining that almost no slaves know their true ages. Next, Douglass takes this detail of his experience and analyzes it. He points out that slave owners purposely keep their slaves ignorant, and that this is a tactic whites use to gain power over slaves.
This is the structure Douglass uses in his Narrative. He presents his personal experience as a typical slave experience, and then usually makes a point about the experience and what it tells us about how slavery works and why it is wrong.
Douglass intends to use the Narrative to expose the more evil underside of slavery. He writes to educate audiences about what really goes on at slave plantations, including more cruel and destructive behaviors. For example, he devotes his writings to a discussion about white slave owners impregnating their slaves. He does not seek to overly shock his readers. He presents a practice and explains how it touches on both slaves and slave owners. Despite the unfair treatment given to the female slaves, Douglass incorporates his own experiences with the slaveholders’ destructiveness through the memory of his meeting with Edward Covey. From the time upon his arrival, Covey beats him senseless for his so called “awkwardness”. Douglass doesn’t dwell on these instances throughout the course of his story. Douglass often returns to this theme, to depict the concept of slavery as repulsive and dirty to not only slaves, but the slaveholders as well.
Douglass makes use of the stories of other slaves to make an argument about the inhumanity of slavery. After Douglass recounts Mr. Gore’s murder of Demby, he includes several similar stories, such as Mrs. Hick killing her female servant and Beal Bondly killing one of Colonel Lloyd’s elderly slaves. These additional scenes serve to support Douglass’s claims about slavery. Douglass is attempting to convince whites that the events he witnessed such as a white man killing a black man and suffering no legal consequences are the normal practice. Also incorporating the story of his aunt, and him witnessing the horrific beatings that had been laid upon her. He says,” I was so terrified and horror-stricken at the sight, that I hid myself in a close, and dared not to venture out till long after the bloody transaction was over.”(page.11). This shows yet another example of how slavery can not only be dehumanizing to the slave holders, but also affects the slaves mental state of mind as well.
After escaping the plantation and moving on in his life, Frederick Douglass had begun his career as an abolitionist in 1851. Upon starting his career, he had faced his views towards the Constitution. His initial interpretation crossed that of another abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison. Both the individuals had agreed on many concepts. Both men started off by agreeing with the vision that the U.S Constitution was a pro-slavery document.
When looking into the basis of the Constitution, the preamble states the basic rights of the everyday common citizen—- Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Douglass and Garrison however looked upon it in a different style. They had seen this document as a “covenant denounce and an agreement with hell” which the two individuals had said it compromised with the “tyranny of the slaveholder.” One can interpret this to meaning that the Constitution protected the slave holders.
Douglass makes the comparison in which that the slaveholders used the Constitution as barrier for their beliefs. The two individuals find Supreme Court cases to back up their cause. The case in which is known as the Dred Scott decision proclaimed that the right of slave owners to got maintain their possession of their slaves, even if they were illegal. This yet again, was one of the key reasons as to why many abolitionists such as Douglass and Garrison were to believe that the U.S Constitution was nothing other than a Pro-Slavery document.
Douglass had broken off to develop his own separate views over time. To Douglass’s usage, he had conjured a number of speeches which he had advocated the views of slavery to the white population by using his own personal experiences to create his strong message. In one of his well-known speeches, “What, To The Slave, Is The Fourth Of July” he confides in his audience how the Constitution is indeed a glorious document. But the key question that is asked in the course of the speech is simply, how do the slaves benefit from the document? The simple answer to that question was they didn’t.