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Frederick Douglass ‘Fourth of July’ speech . . . today

By Ellis Washington
1 March 2008

This article was first published in

Power concedes nothing without a demand. -- Frederick Douglass


While I fully realize that the subject of abortion is an unspoken blasphemy in polite company, nevertheless during this political season I feel compelled to address this most critical issue of modern times. Why? Like slavery, abortion gives one person the power to terminate the life of another under the color of law.

Chattel slavery, or the idea that one man can own and sell another person as his own personal property, was outlawed in 1865 by force of arms in the Civil War and de jure (by law) via the Thirteenth Amendment, nevertheless American society has a modern form of slavery that in my opinion is vastly more clandestine and diabolical than America’s 400 year experiment with “that peculiar institution” - Abortion.

Below is an excerpt of what I consider Frederick Douglass’ greatest speech and one of the greatest American speeches of all time. To stress my point on the slavery/abortion paradigm, I have modified the text of Douglass’s speech about slavery to reflect modern abortion policy (i.e., “Slavery” = “Abortion”; “slave” = “pre-born baby”; “slaveholder” = “pro-Abortionist”).

Frederick Douglass Speaks about the Fourth of July

July 4, 1852 Rochester, New York

Fellow Citizens: Pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called to speak here today? What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence?

Are the great principles of political freedom and natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits, and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us? . . . .

This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct.

And let me warn you, that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin. I can today take up the lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people. . . .

My subject, then, fellow citizens, is "American [Abortion]." I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the [pre-born baby]'s point of view. Standing here, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July. Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting.

America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding [pre-born baby] on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity, which is outraged, in the name of liberty, which is fettered, in the name of the Constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate [Abortion]-the great sin and shame of America "I will not equivocate; I will not excuse";

I will use the severest language I can command, and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a [pro-Abortionist], shall not confess to be right and just.

But I fancy I hear some of my audience say it is just in this circumstance that you and your brother Abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more and denounce less, would you persuade more and rebuke less, your cause would be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued.

What point in the anti-[Abortion] creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the [pre-born baby] is a [person]? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The [pro-Abortionists] themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the [pre-born baby]. ...

The manhood of the [pre-born baby] is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute-books are covered with enactments, forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the [pre-born baby] to [eventually] read and write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the [pre-born baby]. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the [pre-born baby] from a brute, then I will argue with you that the [pre-born baby] is a man! ...

Would you have me argue that [the pre-born baby] is entitled to liberty? That he [not his mother] is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of [Abortion]? Is that a question for republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to understand?

How should I look today in the presence of Americans, dividing and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom, speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively? To do so would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer and insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven who does not know that [Abortion] is wrong for him. ...

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that [Abortion] is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of [politics, medicine and law] are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman cannot be divine. Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is past. ...

What to the American [pre-born baby] is your Fourth of July I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To [the pre-born] your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence;

[To the pre-born] your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy's thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the every-day practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America[’s conception-to-partial-birth abortion policy] reigns without a rival. [End]


The year 1972 was a year filled with tragedy and irony - Tragedy, because the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade was the genesis of a death sentence to tens of millions of innocent babies.  Ironic, because that same year the Supreme Court took away the death penalty against the most wicked and irredeemable murderers, rapists, gangbangers and child molesters by making the death penalty unconstitutional in the case of Furman v. Georgia

 ...for over one third (36%) of all abortions are by black women. According to the 2007 US Census Data, “Half as many viable black children are killed before they can be born as get the chance to live (503 per 1000 births).” ( slave of 1808 has a better chance of life than a black pre-born baby of 2008. 

Jefferson, in his Declaration of Independence guaranteed all Americans three rights - “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” These rights were “inalienable” meaning they derived from God and cannot be taken away by man.  By failing to protect the most vulnerable in our midst, Americans should wonder do we therefore possess any rights that God is bound to respect? 

*N.B. For the complete text of Frederick Douglass’s Fourth of July speech see:

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