Frederick Douglass Scorned July 4 BEFORE Civil War. Proud Of It Afterwards. Media Lies Again.

It is true that on July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass told a crowd of mostly white supporters that he was embarrassed by July 4 celebrations.  He said that each year, they reminded him of America’s failure to apply the “sentiments” of our Declaration of Independence to black Americans.

However, after the Civil War, that same Frederick Douglass was proud of America and our July 4 celebrations.  And he was proud to be a “died in the wool” Republican!

In 1852, Frederick Douglass had good reason to call July 4 was an embarrassment to America.  Like Abraham Lincoln, he believed that on July 4, 1776, Americans created a nation that was supposed to be based on the “sentiments” of our Declaration of Independence.  These included the great principles of “political freedom and natural justice”.   He described the courage and sacrifices made by the patriots who fought for our independence.

However, Like Abraham Lincoln,  Douglass in 1852 was disappointed in Americans for allowing the evil of slavery to continue more than “three score and ten” (70) years after 1776. Douglass reminded them that America’s Jubilee year, its 50th year, had come and gone.  (At that time, almost every American was very familiar the Biblical law that all slaves were to be set free on the Jubiliee, the 50th year.  That passage from the Old Testament Book of Leviticus is written on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.)

What caused Frederick Douglass to completely change his opinion of America and the July 4 holiday?

The short answer is that for the next twenty years after Douglass gave his famous July 4 speech in 1852, America did everything Frederick Douglass urged them to do. They organized an “Underground Railroad” that helped thousands of blacks escape from slavery in the South.  They risked the harsh punishments of prison and heavy fines of the Federal “Fugitive Slave Act” of 1850.  Since slaves were property then worth roughly $400 ($15,000 to $40,000 in today’s currency), the “Underground Railroad” financially ruined slave owners together with banks, and insurance companies who enabled slave trading in the “Border States” (the slave states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri).

Most white Americans also supported a new Republican Party created to end slavery in America.  They elected Republicans who passed laws that stopped slavery from spreading into federal territories that had not yet become states.  They also organized armed militias and fought and died to keep slavery out of Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, and California.  In 1860, white Americans elected Republican Abraham Lincoln as President.

The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 convinced whites in eleven of the fifteen slave states that most American whites agreed with Frederick Douglass.  Most southern whites realized that most whites in the North were determined to end slavery in America.  That is why they tried to quit the Union in 1861.  White Americans in the North then rallied to preserve the Union an end slavery.   They welcomed black Americans to join that fight.  Roughly 310,000 white and 40,000 black Americans fought and died in that four year war.

On January 1, 1863, Republican President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared that black slaves in the eleven rebel states were free.  Union armies won important victories against rebel armies in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 4, 1863.  During the summer of 1864, Union soldiers freed tens of thousands of slaves by capturing Atlanta and marching through Georgia to Savannah. On January 31, 1865, Congress passed the 13th Amendment to permanently end slavery in all states, on December 6, 1865, it was ratified by the states.

On November 19, 1863, Republican President Abraham Lincoln gave a speech at Gettysburg to dedicate a new cemetery for Union soldiers who died during the battle that summer.  In it, he responded to what Frederick Douglass had said about July 4 eleven years before:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”. Abraham Lincoln

These events complete changed how Frederick Douglass looked at America and July 4.
          In February of 1863:  Frederick Douglass actively organized the Massachusetts 54th Infantry Regiment of more than a thousand black soldiers.  Two sons of Douglass were among the volunteers.  Douglass then traveled to black communities throughout America and helped persuade nearly 200,000 African-American men to join the Union Army.
          In August of 1863, President Lincoln invited Frederick Douglass to meet with him at the White House.  Douglass said Lincoln treated him as an equal, was familiar with his writings, and was honest with him at all times.  Douglass met with Lincoln two more times in the White House.  Historians agree that the two men had enormous respect for each other.
and considered Lincoln to be a true friend.
          After the Civil War, Douglass worked closely with Republicans in Congress to protect the rights of newly freed blacks in the South.  That included ratification of the 13th, 14th and 15th Civil Rights Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Frederick Douglass actively worked with Republican President Ulysses Grant to have federal troops protect blacks in the South.
           In 1872, Frederick Douglass moved from Rochester, New York to Washington, D.C.  There he was appointed to several high positions by Republican Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, and Chester Arthur.  For the rest of his life, Frederick was an enthusiastic American patriot and a Republican.

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Seth Grossman, Executive Director

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  • Mr Seth Grossman

    Atlantic City, NJ Attorney since 1975. Executive Director of Liberty and Prosperity since 2003. GOP Candidate for Congress, NJ State 2021, 2018. Adjunct Professor of Government & History at Atlantic Cape Community College 2010-2017. Contact (609) 927-7333

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