Slavery in the Nineteenth Century

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In Ralph Waldo Emerson's speech, "The Fugitive slave Law," what did Emerson want people to do? What did he want them to be?

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Emerson suggests that we each have to make a choice: whether we want to stand on the side of "humanity and justice," and stand up to an unjust law, or the side of "abuse and oppression," obeying a law even when we possess an awareness of how wrong it is.  In other words, we must decide whether we "will stand for right or for might": in regard to the Fugitive Slave Law, the choice his audience faces is to stand against it and be for the right, or bow down to the unjust law and be for the might.

Emerson wants his audience to choose the right, to be humane.  He wants them to recognize the humanity of the men and women and children who have been enslaved, rather than thinking of them as animals and treating them as such.  Further, he says,

Whilst the inconsistency of slavery with the principles on which the world is built guarantees its downfall, I own that the patience it requires is almost too sublime for mortals, and seems to demand of us more than mere hoping.  And when one sees how...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 530 words.)

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