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Constitution as a Glorious Document of Liberty
The history of slavery in America dates back to the 17th century but it is still debated in the avenue of man’s right to live as a free individual. The formal statement written in the form of The Declaration of Independence, safeguards every man’s right of liberty, freedom and pursuit of happiness. However, after the independence from the Great Britain, white supremacy became evident on the black people and they were taken as slaves by the White masters. They were denied from freedom, education and above all equality and the American history is full of such incidents. This essay revolves around Frederick Douglass’s statement given in Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass An American Slave, that constitution holds the importance of a Glorious Liberty Document. Moreover, Douglass’s statement or believe makes sense under the light of the Federalist paper no Ten, it becomes more evident that constitution is actually a glorious liberty document. The federalist paper no ten signifies the importance of freedom, equality and education for all. Similarly, it also talks about the injustice and chaos spread by factions and unjust distribution of resources among the masses (The Declaration of Independence: Full Text).
In the initial chapter of his autobiography, Douglass narrates the importance of family structure for a child to grow closer to his mother’s embrace and within his cultural values. He says “Never having enjoyed, to any considerable extent, her soothing presence, her tender and watchful care” (Douglass, 3). He also points towards the erosion of African culture and the family structure by the tyrannical control of White colonial masters.
Moreover, Douglass recalls his early memory of slavery and distinguishes between the life out of slavery and within slavery through the melody and humming of songs sung by the slaves. He says that he could only understand the narrative and aggression in those songs when he became a slave too because this experience was of a subjective nature.
I did not, when a slave, understand the deep meaning of those rude and apparently incoherent songs. I was myself within the circle; so that I neither saw nor heard as those without might see and hear (Douglass,12).
Similarly, as Madison has written in the first clause of the Federalist paper no ten that democracy is a tool and it is misused under the label of law or principles by those in the majority. Majority makes authority and then deny the basic right of living for minority including freedom and equality. The majority White supremacist masters from the Southern colonies especially thrived on the profits gained from the production of tobacco crops and the gained profit was not equally distributed among them and the poor Black working class (The Constitution and Slavery). Even if they managed to get some benefit from their masters, it would be far from sufficient to meet their daily necessities.
The slaveholders employed multiple ways to deny the right of freedom to the Black people by turning tone deaf towards their demands of equality, freedom and right to education. They forced them into slavery and did not allow them to get education because keeping them ignorant towards their lawful rights was in the greater good of the White masters. For instance, when Douglass’s master Auld cautioned and ordered her wife that education is a way to liberty. It was through his knowledge about his rights and state’s responsibility towards him as a citizen, that he fought for his rights. “Whilst I was saddened by the thought of losing the aid of my kind mistress, I was gladdened by the invaluable instruction which, by the merest accident, I had gained from my master” (Douglass, 29).
Democracy and the instincts of slaveholders are described by Madison in one of the points made in Federalist no ten and he says:
Democracy can never prevent oppression by the majority. There is no way to govern by majority rule and check the oppression of majority rule simultaneously. Democracies are turbulent, short lived, and have violent deaths (Madison,10).
Rules and laws are made to control order, keep the hegemonic control away and create equal opportunities for everyone. However, maintaining the rule of law is a real challenge, for instance, Douglass’s fight against slavery signifies the importance of rule of the law. When white slaveholders continued to break every law, they challenged the writ of law, although slavery was abolished in 1865 but it left continuous racial disputes for many decades.
The Federalist also serves as an important document as it has influenced the American Constitution to some extent. Constitution preserves a person’s fundamental rights and makes it the responsibility of the state to provide for the needs of his citizen on equal bases (Analysis of Federalist #10 - Teaching American History). History is evident that through constitution, Black minority stood or their equal rights against the Jim Crow laws and many similar biased rules on the basis of the constitution.
Keeping in view all the above references taken from Douglass’s autobiography and the cruel nature of slaveholders described by Madison in Federalist no ten, Douglass’s statement becomes more evident because freedom is the birth right of every person, regardless of his race and skin color. The Constitutions are made for the greater good of all masses and to maintain the law and order situation for everyone equally. However, the majority cannot control the minority neither by force nor by ignoring their rights. Douglass’s movement for freedom is a symbol that constitution and rule of law is important and retaining the law is even more crucial for freedom, liberty and education.
“Analysis of Federalist #10 - Teaching American History.” Accessed November 4, 2019. https://teachingamericanhistory.org/resources/fed-antifed/analysis-of-federalist-10/.
“Douglass - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.Pdf.” Accessed November 4, 2019. https://www.ibiblio.org/ebooks/Douglass/Narrative/Douglass_Narrative.pdf.
“Frederick Douglass’ July 4th Oration, ‘the Constitution Is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT.’ - Campus Compact.” Accessed November 4, 2019. https://compact.org/frederick- douglass-july-4th-oration-the-constitution-is-a-glorious-liberty-document/.
“The Constitution and Slavery - Constitutional Rights Foundation.” Accessed November 4, 2019. https://www.crf-usa.org/black-history-month/the-constitution-and-slavery.
“The Declaration of Independence: Full Text.” Accessed November 4, 2019. http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/.
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