Can anyone tell me what the central theme of Ralph Waldo Emerson's speech he wrote regarding "The Fugitive Slave Law"?This article from the book "For The Record A Documentary History of America"...

Can anyone tell me what the central theme of Ralph Waldo Emerson's speech he wrote regarding "The Fugitive Slave Law"?

This article from the book "For The Record A Documentary History of America" written David E. Shi & Holly A. Mayer. I would like to know what this document says about slavery and why. I also want to know what the document says about slavery's place in America.

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dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Ralph Waldo Emerson's speech regarding The Fugitive Slave Act was delievered in accordance with his transcendalist beliefs. The Transcendalist Philosophy fostered the idea that American society needed to re-evaulate itself by returning to a natural state of being. Emerson and other transcendalists, such as Henry David Thoreau believed that only with a reconnection with God and nature would American society be able to see the errors of their ways.The Futigive Slave Law Speech supported Emerson's argument that society was on the edge with regard to America's slave issue, and the dangerous legislation being passed in its defense. The central theme of Emerson's speech suggested that man made legal laws fall into two categories, 'just' and 'unjust' laws. Emerson argued that for a law to be 'just', it must be in sinc with 'moral law'. If the law disregards its moral counterpart it is an 'unjust' law and as such must be broken by those governed by it. In order for a law to be moral it must be applied to everyone equally. The law must not counter any other law in order to survive. In his speech Emerson argued that there was potential danger making it Constitutionally legal to kidnap or otherwise kill escaped slaves for a reward. Just as horrible was the notion that 'free blacks' from the north were subject to capture and passed off as escaped slaves for the reward. This speech has had an impact on the philosophies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as the nationalistic leader of India, Gandhi.

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