Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison

Richard S. Ruderman, University of North Texas
February 8, 2003

In this seminar, we will discuss the careers of America’s two greatest abolitionists, William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass. Through an analysis of their tactics, strategy and, especially, their political rhetoric, we will try to understand their divergent views of moral and political statesmanship. In particular, we will examine their contrasting understandings of human nature, American constitutionalism, and their resulting different hopes for democratic politics.

Richard S. Ruderman is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of North Texas. He specializes in political philosophy and American Political Thought. Dr. Ruderman’s essays on Aristotle, statesmanship, Homer, and liberal education have appeared in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, and elsewhere. His studies of William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass will appear in History of American Political Thought and “Phronesis”: Studies in the Nature and Scope of Prudential Leadership. He is currently working on a book on Statesmanship in Liberal Democracies. Dr. Ruderman received his Ph.D. in 1990 from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

Session One

Reading:

  • From William Lloyd Garrison, William E. Cain, ed., William Lloyd Garrison and the Fight Against Slavery: Selections from The Liberator (Boston: Bedford Books, 1995)
    • pp. 20-52 (from the Editor’s Introduction): general background
    • pp. 61-70, “Address to the American Colonization Society,” July 4, 1829
    • pp. 70-72, “To the Public,” January 1, 1831
    • pp. 74-76, “Truisms,” January 8, 1831
    • pp. 87-89, “On the Constitution and the Union,” December 29, 1832
    • pp. 101-105, “Declaration of Sentiments Adopted by the Peace Convention,” September 28, 1838
    • pp. 112-115, “The American Union,” January 10, 1845
    • pp. 141-144, “Disunion,” June 15, 1855
    • pp. 148-150, “Dred Scott and Disunion,” March 12, 1858
    • pp. 156-159, “John Brown and the Principle of Nonresistance,” Dec. 16, 1859
    • pp. 164-167, “The War—Its Cause and Cure,” May 3, 1861
    • pp. 171-172, “Defense of Lincoln,” May 20, 1864.

Session Two

Reading:

  • From Frederick Douglass, Philip S. Foner, ed., Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1999)
  • From Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1995)
    • pp. 1-69

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