[Lincoln was] the architect of his own fortune, and the American people... saw in him, a full-length portrait of themselves. In him they saw their better qualities represented, incarnated and glorified - and as such they loved him.
A Full Length Portrait
Topic: Society & Civil Religion
A few months after Lincoln’s assassination, Frederick Douglass remarked that Lincoln was “the architect of his own fortune, and the American people, indebted to themselves for themselves, saw in him, a full-length portrait of themselves. In him they saw their better qualities represented, incarnated and glorified – and as such they loved him.”
Frederick Douglass (c. 1818-1895)
American Civil Religion
Martin, Waldo E. The Mind of Frederick Douglass, p. 265 [Waldo E. Martin Jr. (University of North Carolina Press, 1984)].
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Lincoln’s “House Divided” Speech
In the 1850s, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln—two giants on the stage of American history—embarked on paths that would converge on the issue of slavery. On June 16, 1858, Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech proclaimed that the nation could not survive half slave and half free. While both Douglass and Lincoln, inspired by the ideals of liberty and equality enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, agreed that slavery was immoral, they disagreed on the best method to abolish the institution. Frederick Douglass had become convinced that the Constitution was anti-slavery, but Lincoln insisted that the document did not authorize Congress to abolish the institution in the South. The most that the federal government could do, in Lincoln’s judgment, was to prevent slavery’s extension into new territories. Lincoln hoped that, confined to the South, slavery would die a natural death. While Lincoln was convinced that preserving the Union was more important than abolishing slavery, Douglass believed that a Union with slavery was an unacceptable betrayal of the nation’s democratic ideals.
–Waldo E. Martin Jr. [The Mind of Frederick Douglass, p. 265 (University of North Carolina Press, 1984)].
Commentary by Elizabeth Cady Stanton
When Douglass died on February 20, 1895, the reformer Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who knew him since the 1840s and with whom he made common cause supporting women’s rights, paid him eloquent tribute in her diary. Stanton never forgot the first time she saw Douglass speak: “He stood there like an African prince, majestic in his wrath. Around him sat the great antislavery orators of the day, earnestly watching the effect of his eloquence on that immense audience, that laughed and wept by turns, completely carried away by the wondrous gifts of his pathos and humor. On this occasion, all the other speakers seemed tame after Frederick Douglass.”
–James A. Colaiaco [Frederick Douglass: A Life and Times posted on The History Reader blog, February 1, 2016].
Additional Frederick Douglass Quotes
“Time and events have summoned me to stand forth both as a witness
and an advocate for a people long dumb, not allowed to speak for
themselves, yet much misunderstood and deeply wronged.”
—Frederick Douglass [A Life and Times].