Frederick Douglass, Lincoln and the Fight to Save the Soul of America
To quote Martin Luther King:
“Is anything more obvious than the presence of evil in the universe? Its nagging, prehensile tentacles projects into every level of human existence. We may debate the origin of evil, but only a victim of superficial optimism would debate its reality. Evil is stark, grim, and colossally real.
… Within the wide arena of everyday life we see evil in all its ugly dimensions. We see it expressed in tragic lust and inordinate selfishness. We see it in high places where men are willing to sacrifice truth on the altars of their self-interest. We see it in imperialistic nations crushing other people with the battering rams of social injustice. We see it clothed in the garments of calamitous wars which leave men and nations morally and physically bankrupt.
In a sense the history of man is the story of the struggle between good and evil…In our American struggle for freedom and justice, we are seeing the death of evil. In 1619, the Negro was brought to America from the soils of Africa. For more than two hundred years Africa was raped and plundered, her native kingdoms disorganized, and her people and rulers demoralized. In America, the Negro slave was merely a depersonalized cog in a vast plantation machine.
…Then came the day when Abraham Lincoln faced squarely this matter of slavery. His torments and vacillations are well known, yet the conclusion of his search is embodied in these words: “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free, – honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve.” On this moral foundation Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order that brought an end to chattel slavery. The significance of the Emancipation Proclamation was colorfully described by a great American, Frederick Douglass, in these words:
“It recognizes and declares the real nature of the contest and places the North on the side of justice and civilization…The Fourth of July was great, but the First of January, when we consider it in all its relations and bearings, is incomparably greater. The one had respect to the mere political birth of a nation; the last concerns the national life and character and is to determine whether that life and character shall be radiantly glorious with all high and noble virtues, or infamously blackened forevermore.”
…Evil in the form of injustice and exploitation shall not survive forever. A Red Sea passage in history ultimately brings the forces of goodness to victory, and the closing of the same waters marks the doom and destruction of the forces of evil.
All of this reminds us that evil carries the seed of its own destruction. In the long run right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”
The United States today, finds itself in many ways like a boat adrift in a stormy sea. Chaos spreads within the United States, and the danger of economic collapse and war threatens all nations alike.
When similar crises have struck in the past, America was fortunate enough to have the leadership of an Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt at the helm, ensuring that the chaotic tempers, fears and passions of the population could be guided through wisdom and patience to a happier resolution.
One of the greatest obstacles to a happy resolution from the dangerous storms threatening our modern 21st century age, is to be found less in the absence of moral leadership across western nations then it is in the loss of historic and cultural memory suffered by the population at large.
It is an unfortunate fact that too few among today’s citizens of all races have any spiritual or intellectual connection to the principled nature of America’s constitutional origins as the world’s first republic founded upon “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. There is little sense in the hearts of too many citizens that words like “The General Welfare” are anything more than ink on parchment devoid of meaning, and the ideals of freedom are little more than empty promises reserved for a small few.
In this lecture delivered by Rising Tide Foundation as part of the series “A Harmony of Interests: Inquiries into the American System“, Cynthia Chung (President of RTF) sheds light at the deeper historical roots of American slavery shaped by British imperialism, as part of a world economy, and the battle against it stretching back to 1630.
Frederick Douglass, a former slave who would become an advisor to Lincoln, will be used as our guide through the mangled history of the Civil War. His soul and insight into the nature of both evil and goodness alike made his life’s work, writings and devotion to liberty of all races an immortal source of inspiration and wisdom for all races and for all times, especially in times of great crisis, such as now, when soul searching is needed more than ever.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.