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Thank you. Above all, the Constitution must be interpreted in light of its commitment to secure the blessings of liberty for all. In fact, he contended, the Constitution was more than merely anti-slavery. This latter, of course, was the position of Lincoln and of the moderate center of the Free Soil and Republican parties during the s.

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The position of Douglass and constitutional radicals, by contrast, was that the Constitution was in the strict sense abolitionist. Slavery, in their view, was simply unconstitutional; the Constitution delegated to the federal government both the right and the duty to abolish slavery immediately, everywhere in the Union. The one thing needful, then, was to elect an abolitionist governing majority at the federal level.

Seeking such a consummation, Douglass hurled himself into political activism throughout the s. Let us consider first the difficulties. The s witnessed a series of what, to many, must have appeared to be catastrophic setbacks for the abolitionist cause, beginning with the execrated Fugitive Slave Law of , including also the Kansas—Nebraska Act of , and culminating in the Dred Scott ruling in The first of those, described above, was the most flagrantly pro-slavery legislation in U.

The Kansas—Nebraska Act reversed a federal prohibition of slavery within those two territories, thus betraying the principles of the Declaration by making moral indifference to slavery the guiding principle of federal policy and prompting an alarmed Abraham Lincoln to return to electoral politics. In his successive responses to these developments, Douglass expressed not despair but rising hopefulness.

Come what will, I hold it to be morally certain that, sooner or later, by fair means or foul means, in quiet or in tumult…slavery is doomed to cease out of this otherwise goodly land, and liberty is destined to become the settled law of this Republic. This seemingly contrarian hopefulness was no mere exercise in morale-boosting. Douglass found solid reasons for believing what he repeatedly affirmed throughout the decade, as in his Dred Scott speech:. I base my sense of the certain overthrow of slavery, in part, upon the nature of the American Government, the Constitution, the tendencies of the age, and the character of the American people….

I know of no soil better adapted to the growth of reform than American soil. I know of no country where the conditions for affecting great changes in the settled order of things, for the development of right ideas of liberty and humanity, are more favorable than here in these United States….

Frederick Douglass

The Constitution, as well as the Declaration of Independence, and the sentiments of the founders of the Republic, give us a plat-form broad enough, and strong enough, to support the most comprehensive plans for the freedom and elevation of all the people of this country, without regard to color, class, or clime. Douglass believed that slavery was doomed, first and foremost, because he believed that the law of nature as epitomized in the Declaration was, at some deep level, not only true but known or felt to be true by all concerned in the conflict over slavery.

The implication was that the agitation that abolitionists had begun could never be finally pacified until slavery was finally abolished. All measures devised…to allay and diminish the antislavery agitation, have only served to increase, intensify, and embolden that agitation. Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible…. Measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.

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  • So he labored on in those years, cherishing the memory of Lincoln in part for his own, personal reasons and calling his fellow citizens also to venerate the Great Emancipator that they might be bound ever more firmly to the great cause for which he and so many loyal citizens had died: to bring forth out of the terrible war a renewed nation, reconceived in liberty and rededicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

    Viewing it amid the grand course of human events, Douglass saw in the Civil War an event of epochal moral significance. The Union victory signified, for Douglass, much more than the defeat of one particular rebellion and more, too, than the defeat of the troublesome particular doctrines that inspired that rebellion. Viewed in its larger significance, the Union victory meant a victory not only over an extreme, implicitly anarchic variant of the state-sovereignty doctrine, but also over the no less pernicious doctrines of sectionalism and racial supremacy.

    Douglass labored throughout his postwar career to preserve and propagate this enlarged, moralized understanding among a war-weary loyalist population longing for reunion and a stable peace. The grave danger was that reunion and peace would be purchased at the cost of obscuring the moral principles that remained in contest.

    For Douglass especially, the stakes of that contest were matters of concrete urgency as well as of larger national destiny. As he renewed his labors for justice and progress for the freedpeople, Douglass had to confront a nettlesome question, lingering in the minds even of many anti-slavery whites, that had long obstructed the abolitionist cause.

    Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us…. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!

    Frederick Douglass

    Fair play meant at minimum that the nation must reject the alternatives of 1 re-enslavement, this time of the entire black American population; 2 colonization or expatriation; 3 persisting subordination of blacks as a degraded caste; and 4 outright extermination. Of these four possibilities, he was especially fearful of the third in view of the terrible damage it would do—both directly to the character and morale of its primary victims and indirectly to the entire country.

    Woe, woe! To be deprived of the vote in America, or in any democracy, he continued, is to suffer a double injustice. This was no merely abstract consideration. Without it, black Americans would remain all too often outside the protection of law, dependent for their rights on white officeholders who lacked any electoral incentive to represent them. Moreover, as the voting right was an imperative of justice, it was also, Douglass argued, a powerful agency for the cause of integration.

    This meant first the reintegration of a country still badly divided by sectionalism in the immediate aftermath of the war. Scarcely less important than suffrage as a guarantor of personal security were property rights. Such practices implicated southern white landowners in a conspiracy to refrain from selling land to black would-be buyers and to compensate black laborers only by means that prevented them from accumulating any savings.

    Frederick by Esther E. Schmidt

    Again in contrast to more radical critics in his day and our own, Douglass insisted that these persisting abuses by the class of former slaveholders constituted clear violations, not legitimate applications and not refutations, of the natural right of property. The proper remedy for these violations, as he conceived of it, was in accord with this conviction. In developing his own proposal, Douglass did not identify the precise grounds of his disagreement with Stevens. To remedy the degradation and impoverishment that proceeded from this culture of indolence, Douglass throughout the postwar years insistently extolled the property right and the virtues of free labor that supported it, and he called upon his fellow black Americans in particular to cultivate the self-reliant virtues of industry, productivity, and thrift.

    Not transient and fitful effort, but patient, enduring, honest, unremitting, and indefatigable work, into which the whole heart is put. Search where you will, there is no country on the globe where labor is so respected and the laborer so honored, as in this country. Ten years later, in an Independence Day address, he issued a similar, much more pointed appeal. Objecting to the efforts of some white benevolent societies, he urged his black compatriots indignantly to reject any condition of dependence:. A new condition has brought new duties.

    A character which might pass without censure as a slave cannot so pass as a freeman. We must not beg men to do for us what we ought to do for ourselves. The prostrate form, the uncovered head, the cringing attitude, the bated breath, the suppliant, outstretched hand of beggary does not become an American freeman, and does not become us as a class, and we will not consent to be any longer represented in that position.

    No people can make desirable progress or have permanent welfare outside of their own independent and earnest efforts…. We utterly repudiate all invidious distinctions, whether in our favor or against us, and ask only for a fair field and no favor.

    Student's Guide - Fault Finding

    Human nature cannot honor one who is helpless, Douglass had observed long before, but it is bound to respect those who display a forceful, virtuous self-reliance. Every year adds to his wealth and to his intelligence. These will speak for him. There is a power in numbers, wealth and intelligence, which can never be despised nor defied.

    It includes a main sanctuary, a chapel, a social hall, classrooms, library, offices and a Judaica shop. But he found the music scene lacking. After struggling with what to do with his interests in sociology, music and Judaism, a friend suggested he combine his talents and try the rabbinate. It fit. He completed his rabbinical training at Jewish Theological Seminary and was ordained in The pair officially opened the doors of the center in August , after having run the shul from their home since arriving in Before meeting Frumy, Labkowski traveled extensively.

    Everywhere he went he carried one suitcase full of books, mezuzahs and Jewish scrolls and one full of tuna fish and matzah crackers. After settling down, he and his wife knew they wanted to open a Chabad center. We met with a few of the local families here and they were all super excited about the possibility of starting a Chabad center. After they made the move, the couple began by holding meetings in their home and renting spaces for larger events and the High Holidays. But soon they realized they needed their own space and found the current location.

    The single-story brick structure on West 9th Street features a giant menorah out front and houses a sanctuary, library, Judaica shop, offices and classrooms, some of which were damaged by the severe flooding that struck Frederick in May. The basement was inundated with a couple feet of water.