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Bonds of CitizenshipLaw and the Labors of Emancipation$
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Hoang Gia Phan

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780814738474

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814738474.001.0001

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“A Man from Another Country”

“A Man from Another Country”

Citizenship and the Bonds of Labor

(p.1) Introduction. “A Man from Another Country”
Bonds of Citizenship

Hoang Gia Phan

NYU Press

This chapter examines Frederick Douglass' equivocal statement of his view of the U.S. Constitution as a slavery-sanctioning text: “On a close examination of the Constitution, I am satisfied that if strictly construed according to its reading' it is not a pro-slavery instrument. … I now hold that the original intent and meaning of the Constitution makes it a proslavery instrument.” In this antislavery speech, Douglass elaborates the significant disjunction between the letter of the law and the “original intent” of the law. His counterintuitive construction shows that the dominant historical conceptualizations of slavery and slave personhood are contingent, partial truths, whose very intelligibility is circumscribed by the forms of law.

Keywords:   Frederick Douglass, proslavery instrument, Constitution, law, slave personhood, slavery

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