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What political aspects are discussed in the book?

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randinmalone | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted July 17, 2012 at 11:25 PM via web

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What political aspects are discussed in the book?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 18, 2012 at 12:42 AM (Answer #1)

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I think that the most powerful and most compelling political aspects that Douglass addresses is a contextual issue in America at the time and an overall issue about a new democracy.  The most contextual political issue in Douglass' work is the argument against slavery.  Douglass' work operates as almost a political treatise for abolitionism.  In the America of the time period, the debate about slavery was the political debate of the day.  The Northern abolitionists were opposed to the Southern defenders of slavery. Within this, a group of politicians like Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas emerged to suggest that negotiation on the issue of slavery could be accomplished.  Douglass repudiates this with his work in suggesting that slavery has to be opposed in all forms in order for America to represent its promise and possibilities to people of color.  The other political aspect I see in the book is a critique of the new and fledgling democracy.  Essentially, Douglas is asking a political science question as to what values would a liberal democracy outlaw.  Douglass' argument against slavery begs the question of whether democracy is synonymous with politically moral relativism.  Douglass' work wonders aloud about the political aspect of how government can make judgments.  The argument against outlawing slavery was that it was part of "States' rights" and the government should not interfere.  Douglass' work asks if this can be present in a liberal democracy committed to individual rights.  This becomes a political aspect of the book.  What good is a liberal democratic setting if it cannot stand up against the abuse of human beings?  Part of the reason why the work is so visceral in its description of slave treatment and abuse is to bring forth the idea that a government is not very useful if it cannot stand up against some of the abuse identified in the work.  This becomes a very interesting political aspect of the book in terms of where are the areas in which government remains silent and where does it become actively involved.  In this light, Douglass' work carries with it much in way of political aspects and civil relevance.

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