Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Frederick Douglass

His life and times.
 Like many abolitionists, Douglass initially despised Abraham Lincoln for tolerating slavery where it already existed in the South, and for merely opposing its extension into new territories in the hope that this containment would ultimately lead to the extinction of slavery.  After actually meeting Lincoln, however, Douglass developed a deep personal admiration and affection for the President. In the fragile and explosive political climate of the time, Douglass also came to appreciate the prudence of Lincoln's incremental approach to emancipation and black civil rights. (By contrast, Douglass thoroughly disapproved of Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson). Nonetheless, Lincoln and Douglass still had their disagreements. On one occasion, Douglass arrived at the White House to seek justice for black Union prisoners murdered or sold into slavery by the Confederates. Outraged, the fiery Douglass recommended that Lincoln should immediately retaliate upon Southern prisoners, whether or not they had personally been involved in the crimes, but Lincoln was understandably upset at the idea of punishing the innocent for the guilty. He also worried that retaliation would lead to a vicious cycle of brutality and revenge. (Eventually, he did issue a retaliatory order, but it was not enforced). In his memoir, Douglass says he respected Lincoln's humane spirit, but still could not agree with him…(Read entire article.)


May said...

Thank you very much for the link.

May said...

There's an interesting scene in the book of Andrew Johnson, in an unguarded moment, flashing Douglass a hateful, scornful look at Lincoln's second inauguration. (Johnson was also drunk at the time). Then he tries to change his expression, when he sees that Douglass has noticed it, into a forced, fake smile. But as Douglass writes, 'it is useless to close the door when all within has been seen'. Now, tidbits like that are treasures!