Frederick Douglass—the greatest LibertyMESSENGER™
Life-Empowering Values™ of Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass' writings and speeches about liberty, education, work ethic and more, are just as compelling and necessary today as they were 100 years ago. Here are a few of the Life-Empowering Values™ which Frederick Douglass skillfully expressed and passionately embraced, allowing him to rise from SLAVERY to PROSPERITY:
Respect for the U.S. Constitution
"... all I ask of the American people is, that they live up to the Constitution ..." - Frederick Douglass
Originally, Frederick Douglass shared the views of his former mentor, William Lloyd Garrison, denouncing the U.S. Constitution as a pro-slavery document, in light of the Three-Fifths Clause. Douglass later reversed his opinion after examining the U.S. Constitution and reading Lysander Spooner's book entitled, The Unconstitutionality of Slavery, 1845. Douglass wrote: "When I escaped from slavery, and was introduced to the Garrisonians, I adopted very many of their opinions, and defended them just as long as I deemed them true. I was young, had read but little, and naturally took some things on trust. Subsequent experience and reading have led me to examine for myself. This has brought me to other conclusions." Frederick Douglass saw the U.S. Constitution as having "noble purposes, which were avowed in its preamble whose words about liberty rendered it an instrument that could be wielded in behalf of emancipation."
“No right was deemed by the fathers of the Government more sacred than the right of speech,” said Frederick Douglass. In his article entitled, The Plea for Free Speech in Boston (1860), Frederick Douglass reminds us that free speech has the power to create freedom as well as maintain freedom once it is established. As Douglass stated, “Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one's thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down. They know its power.”
“Slavery,” wrote Douglass, “cannot tolerate free speech.”
A slave for the first 20 years of his life, Frederick Douglass was born below poverty, rising from SLAVE to STATESMAN (he advised five U.S. Presidents), and from POVERTY to PROSPERITY. Worth $300,000 at the time of his death in 1895, Frederick Douglass built a fortune of more than 15 million dollars in today's money, through speaking fees, book royalties, key presidential appointments and personal investments.
What Douglass was able to achieve is possible for any person who is willing to work hard and not play the "victim card" as the reason for their failings. No American can out-victimize Douglass—no one today has started life as low and rose as high as Frederick Douglass.
In his speech entitled, Self-Made Men. Frederick Douglass espoused the importance of economic prosperity. He wrote:
"You have been accustomed to hear that money is the root of all evil, etc." . . . "On the other hand, property, money if you please, will purchase for us the only condition upon which any people can rise to the dignity of genuine manhood, for without property, there can be no leisure: without leisure, there can be no thought: without thought, there can be no invention: without invention there can be no progress."
"Knowledge unfits a child to be a slave." - Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass was a committed advocate for "school choice". In 1848, the Rochester Board of Education tried to force Frederick Douglass to send his nine-year-old daughter, Rosetta, to a poor performing black school. Like most parents, wanting the best for his child, Douglass enrolled Rosetta in one of the best private schools in the area, Seward Seminary. Upon attending school for a few days, little Rosetta was expelled because of the color of her skin.
In righteous indignation, Douglass wrote the following in a scathing letter to the principal:
"I am also glad to inform you that you have not succeeded as you had hoped to do, in depriving my child of the means of a decent education, or the privileged of going to an excellent school."
"People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get." - Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass advocated for self-sufficiency when he stated, "... And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!" "... your interference is doing positive injury." Douglass also commented, "... I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs."
On December 7, 1869, Frederick Douglass delivered a speech on immigration entitled, "Our Composite Nationality." He provided his thoughts on the citizenship process for those wanting to settle in the United States.
"We should welcome to our ample continent all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, and people, and as fast as they learn our language and comprehend the duties of citizenship, we should incorporate them into the American body politic. The outspread wings of the American eagle are broad enough to shelter all who are likely to come."