What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?


A  passionate and wonderful speech given by Frederick Douglass on July 5, 1852.

This is my favorite line: There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

I agree with Mr. Douglass that there is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that slavery is wrong.  It does not matter what your culture or tradition is, if something is wrong you know it is wrong. No matter if you have been ill-treated or taken advantage of you still know when something is wrong. Right and wrong is written in every man’s heart.  Whether it is the intentional murder of an innocent, abuse of a child, ill-treatment of an animal, rape of a woman or destruction of a nation, man knows when he is doing wrong.

This particular section is gut wrenching: Behold the practical operation of this internal slave-trade, the American slave-trade, sustained by American politics and America religion. Here you will see men and women reared like swine for the market. You know what is a swine-drover? I will show you a man-drover. They inhabit all our Southern States. They perambulate the country, and crowd the highways of the nation, with droves of human stock. You will see one of these human flesh-jobbers, armed with pistol, whip and bowie-knife, driving a company of a hundred men, women, and children, from the Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans. These wretched people are to be sold singly, or in lots, to suit purchasers. They are food for the cotton-field, and the deadly sugar-mill. Mark the sad procession, as it moves wearily along, and the inhuman wretch who drives them. Hear his savage yells and his blood-chilling oaths, as he hurries on his affrighted captives! There, see the old man, with locks thinned and gray. Cast one glance, if you please, upon that young mother, whose shoulders are bare to the scorching sun, her briny tears falling on the brow of the babe in her arms. See, too, that girl of thirteen, weeping, yes! weeping, as she thinks of the mother from whom she has been torn! The drove moves tardily. Heat and sorrow have nearly consumed their strength; suddenly you hear a quick snap, like the discharge of a rifle; the fetters clank, and the chain rattles simultaneously; your ears are saluted with a scream, that seems to have torn its way to the center of your soul! The crack you heard, was the sound of the slave-whip; the scream you heard, was from the woman you saw with the babe. Her speed had faltered under the weight of her child and her chains! that gash on her shoulder tells her to move on. Follow the drove to New Orleans. Attend the auction; see men examined like horses; see the forms of women rudely and brutally exposed to the shocking gaze of American slave-buyers. See this drove sold and separated forever; and never forget the deep, sad sobs that arose from that scattered multitude. Tell me citizens, WHERE, under the sun, you can witness a spectacle more fiendish and shocking. Yet this is but a glance at the American slave-trade, as it exists, at this moment, in the ruling part of the United States. 

 It is beyond my reasoning that any kind of person could partake in this matter. What did the free white people say to their children as they surely would have seen these things also. They would have seen children their own ages being treated this way. What excuses could those parents possibly come up with. These people’s soul now live with the devil I am sure. At the end of their lives as they were taking their last few breaths they had to be very, very sorry and scared to death because then it was time to pay the piper for the ease in their lives that had caused so much rack and ruin in others.

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2 responses to “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

  1. You’d think slavery would repulse all. Unfortunately, there are those who think of their creature comforts first and foremost. Folks who start conversations with “I” and pepper them with “me’s,” could probably rationalize practices that are demeaning to others. I try to avoid people who are all about themselves. Definitely…

    …not my cup of tea…

  2. This is so heart-wrenching!! How anyone could ever inflict this on another is beyond reasoning. This passage is such a great reminder of the inhumanity of humanity.

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