The Rights And The Duties Of Masters And Frederick Douglass Essays

1134 Words Jan 27th, 2015 5 Pages
By 1850 slavery represented the most important issue in American politics. Slavery lead to sectional conflict between its supporters and detractors, conflict rooted in incompatible ideological convictions. James Henley Thornwell’s The Rights and the Duties of Masters and Frederick Douglass’ What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? illustrate, respectively, pro-slavery and anti-slavery beliefs that could not coexist. Thornwell asserts that because slaves fulfill their duty to god by embracing their civil conditions, slaves gain divine freedom through human bondage, making slavery a divinely sanctioned institution. Douglass deplores the contradiction between the depredations of human bondage and the founding American principles of freedom. Thornwell and Douglass both view slaves as moral beings possessing free will; however, their contrasting views on whether moral improvement necessitates civil opportunity demonstrate the ideological bases of the sectional conflict. Thornwell does not deny the morality of a slave, instead admitting, “the Negro is of one blood with ourselves….in his moral, religious and intellectual nature….We are not ashamed to call him our brother” and that, “when [the perfection of humanity] shall have been consummated, slavery must cease to exist” . Slavery, then, existed not as universally sanctioned institution, but “a part of the curse which sin has introduced into the world” . Thornwell continues his inverted jeremiad by referencing the natural…

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