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Frederick Douglass on the Failure of Religion - Essay Example

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Frederick Douglass on the Failure of Religion

Douglass criticized the mishandling and squandering of our forefathers commitment to liberty as generations lavished in the memory of the revolution without bearing the burden of its responsibility. He praises the principles of freedom, liberty, and morality that our nation was built upon. Yet, he uses the opportunity to remind his audience that liberty was a concept that been abandoned by its religious leaders, and for those left in bondage it was not a day to celebrate freedom, but a day to recognize the difficult road that lie ahead of all America.
Douglass framed his speech with the understanding that there were two Americas. The two Americas were split by the deep foundation of liberty and the oppressive nature of slavery. Recognizing that the two could not exist as one, Douglass remarks on the division when he talks of, “…a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary!”. Douglass lived in his America, where the Fourth of July was not a day of celebration, but a day to remember and honor those that were left behind in shackles.

One of Douglass's main targets in his eloquent speech was religion and its failure to address the slavery issue. Douglass does not argue the merits and evils of slavery, but rather takes the stand that there can be no valid argument for slavery. He logically contends, "There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that slavery is wrong for him". Slavery was a horrifying nightmare and Douglass's description shows it for the injustice it was. He makes no attempt to persuade the audience of its wrongs, but rather uses the opportunity to denounce the American religious community and their religious leaders for their engagement in slavery as well as their neglect of the issue. This was the greatest hypocrisy and the greatest threat to the liberty of all men that Douglass took aim at. His well founded, fiery words chastised religious leaders for wasting the religious freedom the nation had gained by turning their backs on the very tenets that Christianity was built on.
The implications of the Compromise of 1850 were fresh on the mind of Douglass as he spoke of the legalized hunting of man that was known as the Fugitive Slave Law. He bemoaned the rewards that judges would reap by the successful consignment and return of fugitive slaves and decried the taking of men away from their wives and families to be ripped away and returned to a life of indentured misery. The Compromise had been a deal with the devil as the North sought to placate Southern discontent by condoning their excesses into the practice of slavery. Douglass drew a picture that portrayed America as the most immoral nation on earth and its abuses in excess of all others in the world.
America's flawed reasoning of welcoming fugitives from all around the world and casting great honor on them as courageous men stood in sharp contrast to the treatment of the fugitives from American oppression that were are hunted down like common animals kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. He places the Fugitive Slave Law in its rightful historical perspective as he denounces it as being "In glaring violation of justice [] this Fugitive Slave Law stands alone in the annals of tyrannical legislation". Douglass's viewpoint was that never had mankind been so terrible and never had the church been so blinded by sin. Religion's failure to tackle and oppose slavery, and the Fugitive Slave Law, was seen by him to be the greatest blasphemy ever put forth. Douglass pleads with the audience to denounce slavery and rebuke the slave holders, ...Show more


In Frederick Douglass’s speech "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?", the great orator lashes out at America’s hypocrisy and its neglect of the slavery issue…
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Frederick Douglass on the Failure of Religion essay example
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