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The Blood of the Slave, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 499

Essay

The Blood of the Slave on the Skirts of the Northern People

The American jeremiad is a literary form that places American people in the role of the Jewish people in the Hebrew book of Jeremiah.  In the form, the American people escape foreign rule, and as long as they are faithful to freedom and the American ideal of the Constitution, the American moral code, and other societal institutions, they are blessed with success.  Examining how the American jeremiad was adapted to the experience of slaves and African-Americans, David Howard-Pitney argues that slaves and African-Americans took the jeremiad and used it to critique American society, explaining the sins of America and how it has not stayed faithful to its origins and founding beliefs.  Frederick Douglass’ “The Blood of the Slave on the Skirts of the Northern People” follows the form identified by Howard-Pitney.

In Douglass’ essay, the introduction establishes the promise of America, freedom.  Identifying the promise of the country, Douglass states, “In words of Religion and Liberty, you [America] are abundant and pre-eminent.”   Douglass points to the multitude of texts that America has produced on the topic of freedom.  He alludes to such works as “The Declaration of Independence,” “Common Sense,” and “The Constitution.”  In these works, he sees the vision of America as being devoted to freedom.  Also, this freedom is guaranteed to all men, regardless of creed, religion, or nationality.  Having established that the American ideal is freedom, Douglass moves into an attack of America.

Douglass’ attack becomes the declension of the piece, the explanation of America’s abandonment of its promise.  Douglass states, “The issue for freedom or slavery has been clearly submitted to you [America], and you have deliberately chosen slavery.”  The basis of Douglass’ argument is that America has voted for and promoted pro-slavery politicians, and in so doing, the people have advocated slavery and denied freedom to African-Americans.  Douglass specifically refers to General Taylor, “a warrior, slaveholder, swearer, and bloodhound importer.”  By supporting General Taylor, America is guilty of revoking its promise of freedom to all people.

Lastly, Douglass reveals his prophecy that the anti-slavery forces will keep fighting until they throw off the yoke of slavery.  Specifically, Douglass states that the Anti-slavery Societies will speak “words of burning truth, to unmask the hypocrite, to expose the frauds of political parties, and rebuke the spirit of the sin-sustaining church and clergy.”  In short, Douglass criticizes government for not creating laws to ensure freedom and criticizes religion for not committing to freeing the slaves but, instead, for condoning and rationalizing the act of slavery.

“The Blood of the Slave on the Skirts of the Northern People” follows the format of the jeremiad as identified by Howard-Pitney.  In the essay, Douglass identifies America’s promise as that of freedom, its declension as its refusal to politically support abolition, and his prophecy that anti-slavery forces will keep speaking out on the evils of slavery.  In the end, Douglass uses the American jeremiad as a vehicle to critique the evils of American slavery.

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