11 March 2012

He Said It: Frederick Douglass

The one-time slave Frederick Douglass wrote a letter to his former slave master, Thomas Auld, explaining why he fled. The letter was publshed in The North Star on September 8, 1848. The following excerpt comes from that letter:

"From that time, I resolved that I would some day run away. The morality of the act I dispose fo as follows: I am myself; you are yourself; we are two distinct persons, equal persons. What you are, I am. You are a man, and so am I. God created both, and made us separate beings. I am not by nature bond to you, or you to me. Nature does not make your existence depend upon me, or mine to depend upon yours. I cannot walk upon your legs, or you upon mine. I cannot breathe for you, or you for me; I must breathe for myself, and you for yourself. We are distinct persons, and are each equally provided with faculties necessary to our individual existence. In leaving you, I took nothing but what belonged to me, and in no way lessened your means for obtaining an honest living. Your faculty remained yours, and mine became useful to their rightful owner. I therefore see no wrong in any part of the transaction. It is true, I went off secretly; but that was more your fault than mine. Had I let you into the secret, you would have defeated the enterprise entirely; but for this, I should have been really glad to have made you acquainted with my intentions to leave." --Frederick Douglass, "To My Old Master, Thomas Auld" (1848; reprinted in The Oxford Frederick Douglass Reader, ed. William L. Andrews (Oxford, 1996))

I am currently writing a book examining the arguments given on behalf of socialism. This one paragraph from this one letter captures,  more eloquently and movingly than anything I could manage, several of the points I hope to make.


Anonymous said...

Great news! When is the new book expected?

James R. Otteson PhD said...

Thanks, Anonymous! I hope to have a full draft of the manuscript completed by the end of this summer. If so, that should mean a production date right around the first of the year, 2013. I'll keep you posted!