Frederick Douglass On Civil Disobedience

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Douglass agrees with Emerson on the premise of civil disobedience. He argues that citizens are obliged to engage in civil disobedience if a law is unjust, and good democratic citizens should seek out the freedom that was naturally endowed to them by the laws of nature. In contrast of Emerson’s view, Douglass argues that regardless if a law personally implicates an individual, a good democratic citizen must engage in civil disobedience if a law is unjust. In his speech, Douglass cites the commitment of the founding fathers to exemplify the importance of civil disobedience against illegitimate laws. Douglass contends that, “they loved their country better than their own private interest…feeling themselves harshly and unjustly treated by their …show more content…
In contrast to Emerson, Douglass believes public contradictions are private contradictions. Therefore a good democratic citizen must take responsibility for the burden of the state as a whole, despite the law not personally affecting them. In his speech Douglass declares that, “the existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union; and yet, you cling to it, as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes” (Douglass). Douglass’s use of the second person pronoun emphasizes the difference between citizenship and membership as well as the dissociation between the white insiders and the black outsiders. By highlighting this disconnect Douglass is able to argue that all citizens in the United States are morally implicated by the calamity of slavery, regardless of location and personal political beliefs. Therefore the burden of responsibility lands on all citizens, for politics are central and involve every aspect of a good democratic citizen’s

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