Frederick Douglass, Men of Color to Arms (1863)

those question needs to be answered with the two sources provided, and any other.

 

QUESTIONS

 

What benefits does Douglass think African Americans will derive from service in the Union army?

What does Lincoln identify as the essential difference between northern and southern definitions of freedom?

While both men desire the end of slavery, are there subtle differences in how they seem to understand freedom?

VOFA 14

Source 1: From Frederick Douglass, Men of Color to Arms (1863)

Overview: The Emancipation Proclamation opened the door to the large-scale recruitment of black men into the Union army. In March 1863, in a speech in Rochester, New York, Frederick Douglass called on northern blacks to volunteer for the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers, a company of blacks from throughout the free states commanded by Robert Gould Shaw, a young reformer from a prominent Boston family.

When first the rebel cannon shattered the walls of Sumter and drove away its starv- ing garrison, I predicted that the war then and there inaugurated would not be fought out entirely by white men. Every month’s experience during these dreary years has confirmed that opinion. A war undertaken and brazenly carried on for the perpetual enslavement of colored men, calls logically and loudly for colored men to help suppress it. . . . With every reverse to the national arms, with every exulting shout of victory raised by the slaveholding rebels, I have implored the imperiled nation to unchain against her foes, her powerful black hand. Slowly and reluctantly that appeal is beginning to be heeded. Stop not now to complain that it was not heeded sooner. . . . When the war is over, the country is saved, peace is established, and the black man’s rights are secured, as they will be, history with an impartial hand will dispose of that and sundry other questions. Action! Action! not criticism is the plain duty of this hour. . . . Liberty won by white men would lose half its luster. . . .

I have not thought lightly of the words I am now addressing you. The counsel I give comes of close observation of the great struggle now in progress, and of the deep conviction that this is your hour and mine. In good earnest then, and after the best deliberation, I now for the first time during this war feel at liberty to call and counsel you to arms. By every consideration which binds you to your enslaved fellow-countrymen, and the peace and welfare of your country; by every aspiration which you cherish for the freedom and equality of yourselves and your children; by all the ties of blood and identity which make us one with the brave black men now fighting our battles in Louisiana and in South Carolina, I urge you to fly to arms, and smite with death the power that would bury the government and your liberty in the same hopeless grave. . . . The chance is now given you to end in a day the bondage of centuries, and to rise in one bound from social degradation to the plane of common equality with all other varieties of men. . . . This is our golden opportunity.

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Source 2: From Abraham Lincoln, Address at Sanitary Fair, Baltimore (April 18, 1864)

Overview: Abraham Lincoln’s speech at a Sanitary Fair (a grand bazaar that raised money for the care of Union soldiers) offers a dramatic illustration of the contested meaning of freedom during the Civil War.

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective par- ties, called by two different and incompatible names—liberty and tyranny.

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails today among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the process by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bond- age, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty. Recently, as it seems, the people of Maryland have been doing something to define liberty [abolishing slavery in the state]; and thanks to them that, in what they have done, the wolf’s dictionary, has been repudiated.

 

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