What is Douglass's opinion of the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence?explain

Expert Answers
lfawley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In 1852, while living in Rochester, NY, Douglass, a former slave turned editor and public abolitionist speaker, was asked to speak for a fourth of July celebration. Instead of delivering a speech glorifying and celebrating the nation's independence, he delivered a massive attack against a country that violates its own declaration of independence by allowing so many people to remain enslaved. He poses a key question as to whether or not the rights are given to all:

Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?

It is clear that they are not given to all, and Douglass sees and calls America out on the hypocrisy of these words. He notes that the founders crafted a document to afford equal protection and rights to all when they drafted the constitution, but those rights are not actually extended to all human beings. Slavery, as long as it exists, nullifies the declaration of independence as a a statement of rights extended to all.


mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Frederick Douglass found some irony in the Declaration of Independence and with the Founding Fathers. In a speech he gave on July 5, 1852, to the Ladies of the Rochester Antislavery Sewing Society, Frederick Douglass pointed out that many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves. He reminded this group that July 4, which celebrates the freedom of the United States with the declaring of independence from Great Britain and celebrates the Founding Fathers, was not a celebration for all people living in the United States. He pointed out that for those who were in slavery, this was not a celebration of freedom. He believed this day reminded the slaves that equality didn’t exist in the United States. He stated this violated the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Frederick Douglass believed the Founding Fathers who owned slaves didn’t reflect the ideals stated in the Declaration of Independence.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most powerful elements of Douglass' writing is how he raises the imminent critique or contradiction between a nation predicated upon human freedom and one that allows slavery to exist.  Douglass is quite pointed in suggesting that the reality of America is denied when it permits slavery.  Essentially, Douglass is forcing the issue with the contradiction between America's promises and its reality.  In the process, Douglass reveals a great deal about the hypocrisy of the founding fathers and those who have inherited the positions of power in American government and society.  For Douglass, until the nation can effectively outlaw and stop slavery, it will live in the chasm between its hopes and its actual function.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I assume that you are referring to the speech that Douglass gave on Independence Day of 1841 in Rochester, New York.

In that speech, Douglass was saying that there was no reason for slaves or for black people in general to celebrate that day.  He was saying that all the day did was to rub in to black people how hypocritical the US was.

Douglass argues that there is no reason for him to celebrate a document or the people who wrote it when the document and the people kept his people enslaved.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question